Clean Up Australianism
We're all screwed. Maybe it's the smell of oil and petrol that's always in the air. Maybe it's the plastic and Styrofoam that blows around my neighborhood on a windy day. I live in a middle class suburb in a low-density city in a modern, comfortable society. If this is what Adelaide - population 1 million - is like, how am I supposed to have confidence in the future of humanity?
The shiny sheen of the world wears thin sometimes, and I catch glimpses of reality. Like, there's 8 Billion people on the planet now, that's over 6 Billion more than there were this time last century. There are enormous plastic deposits floating out in the oceans. Pacific Islands are shrinking. Supermarkets don't buy odd-shaped fruit and vegetables, and emissions are warming the planet. Trash is piling up everywhere.
Yawn! I get it, everyone knows this stuff. We hear it all the time. I'm as poignant as a 14 year old. A hypocrite, typing this on coal-fired internet.
Except, this dismissive response is the exact reason we are all screwed. Human brains don't think long term, definitely not in the timescale it takes for most plastics to break down. The instinctive response to fear is not limited to fight or flight. For a lot of people it's actually freeze (do nothing) or friend (avoid conflict). We are programmed for inaction. It helps in a lot of basic use cases, but we've developed beyond a lot of those. We're mentally capable of sitting and watching TV for hours while this happens around us.
It’s not all tragic. We can use that same psychology to help our planet. Social cues have been shown to motivate changes in behavior better than abstract fear forecasting. Warnings about rising average temperatures make us feel bad, but an LCD sign on every street that indicates what percentage of residents managed to provide uncontaminated recycling would have a real effect. On a simpler level we can lead by example, and hope if enough people show their actions it might influence others. Bradism.com separates its recyclables, has meat free days, uses public transport. I sometimes pick up rubbish that I see on the ground; hand sanitizer exists. It's a small inconvenience, in terms of trying to save the world.
And then, when we're all living in harmony with nature, we'll die from an undetectable outbreak of listeria covered Rockmelons.
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The woman with the fake tan stepped into my office, sat across from my desk and lit a cigarette.
At least, she would, sometime in the next 20 minutes. Smelling the future has advantages, but precision isn’t one of them.