08 April 2008

Plastick

It's right there at Epcot, Fantastic Plastic. And truly, it's invention was life changing for the world. Plastic protects food and holds clean water. It is lightweight and strong, yet flexible. Dish soap and shampoo bottles don't shatter after slipping from the hand. Technical undergarments are crazy warm, even when wet, and then they dry quickly. Look around. Stores are full of plastic, regardless of what they sell. And it's cheap. Disposable. Reusable? Sure, if you can manage to be living in that kind of place. Recyclable? Sometimes. But where does it come from? And more disturbing, where does it go?

Short answers: it's oil and once it becomes plastic, it never goes away.

Plastic is one more side of our multi-faceted addiction to petroleum. Every container, tool, chotchky, CD, you name it is one more demand for oil; foreign dependence or domestic pillaging.

Rethink~Reuse~Recycle is a great motto, to be followed in that order. Think about your choices before you make them. Take the canvas bag to the store (tip: keep them by the door or in the car). Is there an option with less packaging? Don't fool yourself that it all gets recycled. Can you find it in paper, metal, or glass? Do you really need it?

But what of the stuff that escapes our careful plans? Doesn't it wear out, break down, dissolve? Yes, to a point, but it will always be plastic, just very small pieces. Like much of what we discard, it will end up in the ocean. Bags look like jellies and are mistaken by turtles for food. Birds eat a variety of plastic items, starving to death with their bellies full. According to the UN Environment Programme, plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals. Beginning at the bottom, looking like zooplankton, up the food chain it goes. Maybe someday an industrious bug, like the termite, will manage to begin digesting it, but for now, it's just a killer. But out of sight, out of mind, right? So, after you read the wiki in the title link, read these:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7314240.stm
http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/the-worlds-rubbish-dump-a-garbage-tip-that-stretches-from-hawaii-to-japan-778016.html

The genie is out of the plastic bottle. What happens to it now is every consumer's responsibility.

06 April 2008

Doing the French Mistake?

It could be that 18 months in Italy have substantially altered my expectations, but I have just found Parisian clerks and shopkeepers to be pleasant, helpful even. No, really, one walks into a store and someone says, "Bonjour." At the counter, after realizing I've exhausted all of my three French phrases, they smile and find some way to conduct the transaction. Remember, it's not uncommon to walk into an Italian shop and find no one, maybe overhear conversation in the back room, but be left with the feeling that they just don't care if they sell anything, ever. The French waitress who said our chocolat chaud et p√Ętisseries were going to take a looong time barely registered on our rude-o-meter, but our friends who live in Paris were dismayed by her demeanor. True, she brought the wrong size drinks, but the bill reflected that. And it took only half as long as she had threatened. It was a chilly, drizzly day and we had tucked ourselves under the awning. She probably would have preferred to remain inside. In her position, so would I.

But, yes... gay Paris! The Tower has taken up sparkling again, there is art and inspira
tion for art everywhere, women go about in (reasonably) comfortable shoes. Le pain et les chocolats sont fantastiques. Even in a quiet little park there was an inspiring cat. It was thoroughly grey and rounded. Maybe there was more cat on its frame than needed be, but its lines were beautiful. It was so friendly so as to make photography difficult, constantly approaching the camera and playing with the wrist cord. It caused Craig to think that, perhaps, Chutney Wordsworth has been trying to emulate the drawings I've been doing, very linear. He's trying to be string-and-stick cat. I must draw this round grey Parisian cat and maybe my own little grey cat will attempt to become more three dimensional.

Then there is the transit system. Uncle John is right in that even the natives must carry guides. But that is no disparagement. The system is just so complex that to be most efficient carrying the maps is essential. Joe has even attached a little magnifying glass to his booklet for times of suboptimal illumination. Speedy, convenient, efficient, and economical: what's not to love? Yeah, sure, it's a subway and sometimes smells like it. But it takes my fond memories of San Francisco's Muni/BART system and sends them packing. As much as I love my City by the Bay, the City of Light has caught my eye. Nay, she's turning my head.


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