What we call little things are merely
the causes of great things; they are the beginning,
the embryo, and it is the point of departure
which, generally speaking,
decides the whole future of an existence.
One single black speck may be the beginning
of a gangrene, of a storm, of a revolution
--Henri Frederic Amiel
If you add a little to a little
and do this often,
soon the little will become great
--I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
--Are you listening?
--Yes, I am.
--The Graduate (1967)
This is a small story about small things observed in a day.
It began chatting with Josh, the guy cleaning up my computer and co-founder of one of our local internet providers. He's also a nature photographer, and a beautiful scene from the back door of his sister's home in the Bahamas led to talk of the Texas+-sized plastic Island in the North Pacific, so toxic for wildlife as the bits that compose it are mostly small and ingestible. We also have one forming in the Atlantic, which only seems right.
I have witnessed the result of this sort of pollution in our little town in one of our only lakes, when a paddling of ducks was trying to remove a partially-swallowed plastic bag from the mouth of one of its members. It was brave and heartbreaking at once, as each member would take its turn swimming beside the distressed bird, trying with its beak to dislodge the offending item. Finally, the bird swam close enough to lake's edge that I could walk out and retrieve what was a bag -- almost completely swallowed -- filled with some food garbage which someone had thoughtlessly tossed out.
Josh also discussed how he had wanted solar panels when they built their offices, but the contractor told them the weight and number of panels needed would have been prohibitive. Europe has the technology, but as the U.S. has no end of foul oil partners, it is not as pressing a concern here. We further discussed the waste materials from discarded hardware, and how the average person does not know how to properly dispose of such materials, which later clog our landfills.
As the repair was lengthy, he continued on with a story of poor home construction, and how so many openings were left between the wall and the floor of an addition that a snake had recently entered his home! He used some of that canned aerosol foam insulation, and feels the cracks have been sealed, but the cedar facing will have to come down and he will now have to make the corrections himself.
For many of our shoddy local builders a wall is a token separation of one space from another, versus a well-insulated barrier from the elements which when done correctly reduces the squandering of electricity. FSU has a prototype of the ideal home of the hopefully not-too-distant future on their campus, dubbed the OGZEB (Off-grade, zero emissions building.) Water is the only city resource used. The NYT featured the Lumenhaus recently, using a similar idea. Europe's Passive Houses accomplish the goal today.
Two shopping transactions followed: a "super soft" toothbrush purchased at the health food store impressed as it was made entirely from recycled yogurt containers, and included a label and a mailer (the brush case) in which to return the old brush for recycling. It was also an excellent product. Next stop was the chain grocer, Publix.
I was returning an item, and wanted to re-load my Publix gift card with the amount. It is a minor matter that brings this to mind: The card has a pretty winter scene, and I wished to keep it for awhile. However, I learned the cards cannot be reloaded, and must be discarded after one use, and so was issued a new plain green card in its place, no more or less suitable than the one just discarded.
As an aside, Publix recently inaugurated their Greenwise section of mostly organic food, presumably appealing to the environmentally-conscious consumer. But there is a disconnect here in the small matter of hundreds of plastic cards hitting their garbage daily.
If one is committed to conservation, coloring your cards green instead of recycling them falls short of convincing.