Folks, this is about my "consumption" of plastic over the next year. I'm looking at what I have, what I buy, and why I seem to need this hundred and fifty year old man-made concoction more than my mother's fried chicken.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Week 5: A letter to The Future

Mr. McGuire: "I just want to say one word to you--just one word."
Benjamin: "Yes sir?"
Mr. McGuire: "Are you listening?"
Benjamin: "Yes sir, I am."
Mr. McGuire: "Plastics."
Benjamin: "Exactly how do you mean?"
Mr. McGuire: "There's a great future in plastics...think about it."
From the movie, The Graduate, 1967

Dear The Future,
It has come to my attention that your well-being is at stake. I know this is hard for you to imagine as you have not really experienced it yet, but trust me...I've been there. I am concerned in particular about plastic on 3 levels, and I wanted to share these with you:

  1. On the surface, there is (literally) mounting evidence that something is not quite right with this material. I will be the first to admit that I have trusted in this material from its inception over 100 years ago. As it morphed and improved, so did I (or so I thought). Over time, these inventions--these wonders of innovation and convenience gradually took up more and more space in the physical landscape. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but plastic is ugly. It lacks thoughtfulness and beauty. Have you seen the plastic bags dangling off the trees like tacky earrings? And what about the beaches in the South Pacific heaving all of the diapers back to land with the tide? I have been trying to contact The Present for some time now concerning the rapidly increasing production of plastic. Virgin plastic production was over 120 billion pounds last year in the US, which is the equivalent of 1,333 Titanics! And about 98% was dumped and not recycled! The landfills, incinerators, open dumps, and ultimately the ocean will not store this material indefinitely.

  2. The space between may seem inconsequential, but I assure you that plastics occupy all of it, even on a microscopic level. Many humans are now beginning to realize that their synthetic chemicals associated in the production of plastic are now broken up into microscopic bits and outnumbering plankton 6 to 1! Leaching occurs in so many things from the insides of popcorn bags to the copier that off-gasses as they hover right over it. Imagine, over 6 billion walking & talking micro-landfills! I have been responsible for the promotion of plastics, but from what I understand The Present is becoming more and more active (on your behalf) to learn more about the effects of microplastics on living systems. This is a relief because I think all three of us need to be advocates for each other, no?

  3. Getting to the bottom of it is not difficult to pin point, but extremely challenging to change. What I am particularly alarmed at is this new identity that humans have taken on. "Consumers" is the word I keep hearing. If memory serves, they used to identify themselves with words like "survivors", "farmers", "sowers", "innovators", "participators", "fishers", "lovers" & "thinkers". I know that there are millions out there who are reassessing this identity, and this is hopeful. Some have instituted plastic bag bans or taxes in places like Canada, India, the Netherlands, Australia, the US, Pakistan and several countries in Africa. There has been a wake up call and you should be encouraged by this. I myself am relieved because quite frankly, all of this plastic build up has had a very negative effect on my reputation.
In closing, I propose that you and I do everything in our power to contact The Present, who (alas) always has a ridiculously busy schedule. I know that The Present acknowledges the two of us, but I want to have a deeper relationship (with both of you), especially in regards to our dealings with humans. One topic in particular I would like to discuss--and related to my third point--is how many humans perceive us as linear, two-dimensional, and relatively separate from one another. If anything, we need to figure out how to communicate that we are cyclical...I am the perfect example! I always catch up with people. Decisions and actions made under me don't go away. We ARE extremely interconnected, are we not?

Look, I don't mean to go on and on, but I don't really have a choice. I've been around a long time and I have much to say, but this change has to happen at the position that I no longer hold and you have yet to inherit. This is why The Present is so important. As we are only able to meet with The Present as liaison, I do hope you will do what you can to emphasize the urgency of this meeting.

The Past

P.S.--Have humans figured out a replacement for the automobile? Henry Ford was curious.

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