Friday, February 09, 2007

out of sight, out of mind

an anecdote circulated on our campus: a student was found dumping motor oil down a drain that empties into the reservoir adjacent to campus. he said "i didn't think it went anywhere."

it's not fun to think about where stuff goes. in my fantasy as soon as i plop the bag into the dumpster it vanishes into thin air--i'll never think of it again. my fantasy is that when something flows down the drain it's gone for good, but it goes SOMEWHERE.

water comes from my faucet, electricity flows from my outlets, gas appears at the gas pumps, groceries show up on the shelf. it's a little more troublesome to think about where it actually comes from.

i guess it just hit me that so much insensitivity to the environment is rooted in a fantasy that our modern consumerist world has perpetuated: "light at the flip of a switch!" "just flush and it's gone forever!"

it's just the good ol' law of conservation of matter: "matter changes form, but cannot be created nor destroyed" and conservation of energy: "energy can not be created (made from nothing), or destroyed (made to disappear to no-where)"

it seems to me that these ideas can be extended philosophically--everything anyone does has repercussions. everything is interconnected.

No man is an island, entire of itself
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were
any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
it tolls for thee.

-- John Donne

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