Its September 27, 2016. Today’s the day Elon Musk has proposed his plan to colonize Mars, proposing that the first person will be put on Mars by 2025.
I talked it over with my friend, agreeing that while we personally wouldn’t want to live on Mars (yet), it’s nice to know there are people thinking that far into the future on how to handle population growth.
And then I wondered—is that the reason? Would we really fill the earth entirely and have to expand habitation to another planet? Would it be because of space? Could there be another reason? Is it pollution and the like that would bar us from using all of the space we have here?
Ultimately my string of questions led to one inward question: while innovators like Musk are thinking about what to do in the future, what are we doing now in the present, for the planet we already have?
I’ve thought about this matter in the past, and thinking has never been the challenge. But lately I’ve tried acting, and it’s been a cathartic experience.
One of the terrible things about social media is that people speak their minds. Among the great things about social media is that people speak their minds. And once in a while someone’s speaking has great benefit and that’s how it all started.
When I first saw some of my friend Paul’s posts and pictures about people being insensitive to their surroundings, it would make me laugh and I’d admire his ability to see and speak about absurdity. He was so perceptive to people’s bad habits. But it wasn’t critical, just true.
As time went on, between his shots of nature, architecture and food, I saw more and more of what he took issue with, and resonation started traveling from my brain to my heart.
I started refusing plastic bags at Walgreens if I was buying a bar of soap. It wasn’t overnight and I wasn’t perfect, which only spoke to how much work was still needed—but it was something.
As I read more and more of his posts I began to realize how neglectful we are of what we’ve been given, yet we continue wanting all the more in life. When I saw a dolphin dead because of plastic bag, or a duck suffocating from a 6-pack ring, it really hurt.
I know this is obvious news but I’m going to state it anyway: plastic does not decompose. Not in your own lifetime anyway. And how much plastic do we use in our lives? It isn’t one plastic bag or plastic fork per lifespan. It’s much more.
Our existence is not disjointed from the rest of the living world. Everything is connected. When one thing gets hurt, undoubtedly everything else will too very soon, including us.
Of course it’s not easy in 2016 to switch back to cloth diapers (which is unfortunate because they decompose the slowest), but there are small things we can all do. It’s less about reversing an entire lifestyle and more about a minor internal audit. Where do I see excess of something in my own routine? What could be improved? What could I do or not do?
One of the things that stood out first for me was retail bags. A bag from Charming Charlie or Forever 21 or Zara—bags that are designed to hold 1-2 articles of folded clothing and can’t really be used for much else. They don’t fit waste baskets. I won’t use them to give someone else something in. They are totally useless after they come home. And so now I have a tote that I try to take to the mall with me, and I don’t have to bother with those store bags. It’s quite the relief.
Plastic bags I’ve already mentioned. There is simply no need for a bag if I’m buying a pack of gum. In grocery stores what is rarely of any use again is a produce bag. If the fruit or vegetable in question is super sensitive, or wet, then maybe you have to have one. I thought about how I wished grocery carts had built-in compartments for the sensitive stuff but then found flaw with that idea really fast. I mentioned my thought process to Paul and he casually stated how it’s best to just take your own paper bag to the store for fruits and vegetables. And of course then it was all so obvious. If there can be a tote bag for the mall why not one (or more) for groceries?
So now I’ve got a tote bag.
Here’s where it gets personal. Like myself, if you aren’t even used to being environmentally awake, it can be so easy to continue neglecting specific-to-yourself excesses. I’m not a coffee or on-the-go tea drinker. So I’ve never had the need for a portable cup. I mentioned one day that Houston has a lot of Boba (bubble tea) places and because of the weather I’m always going to them. To that, Paul very kindly dropped a reminder: “Just remember to bring your own mug!!! ;-)”
I was stunned—how did I not realize that? So many plastic cups go to that. The people at Boba places can easily transfer the mixture from the blender into my own cup, were I to bring one. It took no more than a couple minutes of research. A 20 oz tumbler would work great. I haven’t been able to find anything with a solid plastic boba straw or a hole big enough for even the disposable ones they have—but a little engineering with dad can address that.
Honestly, it’s all very fun—because it requires some creative problem solving. And you’re helping the world at the same time by doing very little. My next endeavor is to try and conserve a little water by investing in a bucket for old-school showers. Maybe once a week at least. We still do that in Pakistan and it actually cleanses better because you’re forced to use the water.
So what’s my point? Am I bragging about saving the earth? Not at all. My point is that truth and passion both go a long way. It’s always so remarkable that a person’s sentiments are strong enough to change another’s.
Consciousness for good has long been built into us. I’ve run into a lot of people that are alert about what the truth of things around us are. My friend Annan took a vow this year to not buy any new clothing, in light of all the poorly paid and treated labor that actually makes the things we wear. My friend Imene told me a long story in high school about dying fish whose ultimate lesson was not to waste tap water. My dad has always been super careful about not wasting paper towels.
They’re there—the people that help us just wake up a little more. But ultimately we have to choose to be awake, each person. And like the Arabs say: the first of the flood, is just a drop.
Thanks Paul—means the world. Literally 🙂