Grasshopper Soup: Where did going green go?
May 10, 2011
TRUCKEE/TAHOE, Calif. and#8212;-Today weand#8217;re having instant Grasshopper Soup, thanks to a long e-mail I received. Just call me lazy. Itand#8217;s a simple, relevant, spin on the and#8220;greenand#8221; thing. At the end of the e-mail I added a reminder for young people that computer technology (texting, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) wouldnand#8217;t be possible without digging big holes in the earth.
This is not meant to be a full report on the complex challenges of and#8220;going green,and#8221; just an added perspective for the benefit of people like the grocery clerk in the story.
The e-mail goes like this:
A young clerk in the grocery store told a little old lady that she should bring her own bag because plastic bags are bad for the environment. The little old lady sincerely apologized and explained that the and#8220;green thingand#8221; didnand#8217;t exist back in her day.
The young clerk picked on the little old lady again by saying, and#8220;Thatand#8217;s why we have such a big problem today. Your generation didnand#8217;t care about the environment.and#8221;
The little old lady was right. The and#8220;green thingand#8221; didnand#8217;t exist in the old days. We returned milk, soda and beer bottles to be washed, sterilized and re-used. Iand#8217;m not that old, but even I remember putting empty milk bottles outside for the milkman when I was a kid.
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In the old days we walked up stairs. We didnand#8217;t use electric elevators and escalators in every building. We walked to the grocery store instead of driving a 300 horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.
Back then women boiled, washed and re-used baby diapers because they didnand#8217;t have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a clothesline, not in an energy gobbling, 220 volt machine. We used wind and solar power on a daily basis. Kids were given hand-me-down clothing, not new outfits every few months.
But the little old lady was right. We didnand#8217;t have the and#8220;green thingand#8221; back in the old days.
We had one TV, or radio, in the house, not a TV the size of the state of Montana in every room. In the kitchen we blended and stirred everything by hand. When we mailed fragile items we used wadded up old newspapers, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.
We didnand#8217;t fire up a gasoline powered motor to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. That kept us in shape so we didnand#8217;t have to go to a health club to run on electric treadmills. Child obesity was not an issue because we rode our bikes to school everyday. We played outside and made our own toys out of wood and old junk. We didnand#8217;t need toys made with petroleum bi-products (plastic). We had one electric outlet per room, not an entire bank of sockets to power dozens of computer games, toys and appliances.
We drank from a water fountain instead of using cups or plastic bottles all the time. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying new ones, and we replaced razor blades instead of throwing away the whole thing when the blade was dull.
No, we didnand#8217;t have the and#8220;green thingand#8221; back in the old days.
And we didnand#8217;t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from a satellite in outer space in order to find the nearest Jamba Juice.
We dispose of more non-biodegradable garbage today, and take more resources from the earth, than ever before in human history. Big holes have been dug in the earth for decades to collect silica, one of the most common materials found on earth. It is perfect for making computer chips. Even when other materials being researched become viable, they will probably not replace silica. So, right or wrong, we will dig more big holes.
Every generation has virtues and faults. In that way they are all alike.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 28 years.