Sunday, May 25, 2008
Sunday Soapbox: Was Chicken Little Right?
As a person of a certain age, I am well-versed in Chicken Little philosophy, from the cradle. Chicken Little didn't know what he was talking about, and he ran around shrieking that the sky was falling when in fact it was a simple little acorn that had bopped him on the noggin. The moral of the story was something like this little cliche: don't make a mountain out of a molehill. Check your facts before thinking the sky is falling. Look around you to see if, in fact, any of the sky is on the ground at your feet.
But what if Chicken Little was right?
For years now, since Rachel Carson published her masterpiece Silent Spring, environmentalists have been calling for action. For the better part of the decades since then, we (I use the universal we, not literally me) have scoffed at them. It takes years and much red tape to make one little change that could greatly benefit the world as we know it. Why? Because we think the environmentalist, the tree-huggers, the granolas of the world are Chicken Little incarnate. We think they are scared of their own shadow. We think they are creating much ado about nothing.
Today the "green" movement is changing all of that. Suddenly you don't hide the 60% post-consumer product toilet paper under the heavily bleached paper towels. You don't stuff the tofu under a pack of hamburger meat. And you certainly don't buy poison for the yard. As my best friend said to me last night, "People are buying up all this organic stuff, and in fact that's how we used to eat!"
Yes, grandma used cloths in the kitchen and when cleaning her house. No disposable wipes, no paper towels, no heavily perfumed or antibacterial goo. Maybe vinegar and water or some plain bleach water. Sometimes just soapy water from the kitchen sink where she washed the dishes by hand (rinsing them in a dishpan to save water...because it came from her well...waste not, want not!). Grandma grew her own vegetables without a lot of chemicals. She knew what to grow with each plant to give the best pest control, and she was out there daily, picking off the bugs or shooing away the crows. She often bathed several kids in the same bathwater to conserve that precious resource. She didn't use hairspray or any other aerosol. She made her own soap, her own butter (for a time), and got milk from her own cows. Gradually, that all changed. Everything came from a can or bag or freezer. It traveled miles to get to her. She had to learn a whole new way of cooking and cleaning. Everything became disposable and available at the local grocery, which turned into a supermarket.
And the landfills grew. And the air became more polluted. And the water became more polluted and sometimes carried killing bacteria through the pipes. Grandma couldn't assess her own well water because she didn't know where the well was.
Now where are we? Martha and Paula are having to teach us to cook (along with a million other chefs that dot the cable line-up). People with dreadlocks are ringing up our purchases at the organic market where we go to find safe food and to feel good about ourselves. There isn't enough legislation to keep the world safe forever, and we've been lulled into such a sense of futility that most of us (I'm including myself here) wouldn't know where to begin to fight the system which has allowed for this poisoning of the atmosphere. Big businesses have far, far more power than we do, and the government wants to do everything in their power to protect those CEOs and their multi-million dollar bonuses. They, we are told, are the backbone of our economy.
I think my grandparents were the backbone of our economy. They were self-sufficient. They pitched in to help their neighbors when they needed it. They used their money and their energy locally. They took care of their own well and tended their own garden, but they also were closely-knit with the rest of the community. In our era of globalization and lead-laden toys from China, are we better off?
Maybe Chicken Little had it right all along. He was a little premature in his assessment, but the sky is falling, folks. As hubby said to me while we were walking our dogs yesterday, "A change is coming." I couldn't agree more. Four dollar gasoline is only the beginning. We knew we'd have to pay the piper someday.
The piper is here.
Peace - D