Paying attention

It’s doing the little things that counts

I’m beginning to think that nearly everything manufactured is a pollutant. The things we build need constant attention and repair because Gaia is trying to get back to normal, which does not include your house, your iPod, or your air conditioner.

For instance, a few years ago I heard about a CalTrans effort to widen Highway 99 through town. The most important thing about the widening of Highway 99, or the building of any road, is that it will increase the area of the Earth’s surface where nothing can grow—nothing, not a blade of grass. Every paved street and road prevents life and decreases the amount of oxygen available to you and me. I like oxygen, and the older I get, the more I like it.

The state wanted to widen Highway 99 so SUVs can go faster. The California Department of Transportation is anti-oxygen. So is the Chico Chamber of Commerce (motto: Greed good!), which, of course, supported expanding 99.

As far as I can tell, the most widespread poison—next to organized religion—we’ve thought up so far seems to be petroleum. Oil either kills outright, like with oil spills and emissions from internal-combustion engines, or it prevents life by not becoming food, as with asphalt or Legos or the plastic tape on my handlebar.

After winning a war against Carthage, the Roman army spread salt on the Carthaginians’ fields so nothing would grow and the people would starve, thus creating a huge parking lot with nothing to park on it. The Romans were stupid, mean and powerful. Actually, the Romans may have been decent people. The Roman government was stupid, mean and powerful.

In the interest of sustainability and a smaller carbon footprint and all that, I’ve begun taking a closer look at the stuff I buy—what it’s made of and how, what’s likely to happen when I’m done with it, and what I want it for to begin with. Whew!

I buy organic food as much as practical, but I realize that I’m placing an awful lot of faith in the Food and Drug Administration. Still, it’s a start, and it lets me feel better about what my family and I eat, and I like feeling better.

I’m reminded continually of how much the rest of the Earth, especially the smaller forms of life in Butte County, would like to recycle our house into more small forms of life, particularly termites and mold. So far, I think I’m keeping up.

Most of the things I do in an ecological-sensitivity vein I do on principle, because I don’t usually see any clear result. I have no idea how much water I save by not letting the water run while I wash dishes or brush my teeth or soap up in the shower. I still believe that my attention to turning lights off in Porter-free rooms at home makes a difference overall. I believe your attention to such things makes a difference, too. My utility bills don’t seem to have gotten smaller, but I’m still living more mindfully, and I know that makes a difference.