J500 Media and the Environment

Should she take the garbage out? by jennibro

When I was a little girl my mother used to read Shel Silverstein poems to me. My favorite poem was about a girl named Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout. This little girl adamantly refused to take the garbage out.  This poem gave me dreams as a child that one day our garbage was going to take over our lives until we were swimming in it.

Image by Chelsea Carolyn

Image by Chelsea Carolyn

It’s scary images like this that inspire people to begin the process of reduce -reuse -recycle. Blue bins now line the streets on trash pick-up day, and recycle signs designate the appropriate can for your bottle around the office. Unfortunately, recycling paper and plastic isn’t all it’s going to take. In “The story of stuff”, Annie Leonard stated that, for every can of waste put on the curb, 70 cans of waste were made to produce the contents  of that can. “So even if we could recycle 100 percent of the waste coming out of our households,” she said, ” it doesn’t get to the core of the problem.”

So what can we do? The answer is sustainability. Sustainability is to maintain and provide for. To keep the planet healthy, rather than make it worse for the wear. To conserve our resources, eliminate waste, develop clean air technologies, invest in waste-water solutions. The planet Earth is complex, and to sustain our planet it is going to take multiple efforts.

So what can Sylvia Stout do? What can one person do to help maintain the planet?

She can constantly educate herself to make the right choices based on what is best for the environment. She can recycle, choose to buy products without bulky packaging, use natural pesticides that are toxin free. She can refrain from buying the newest phone every six months and throwing away the old. She can change light bulbs to fluorescent to cut down on energy consumption, or ride a bike instead of driving. The possibilities are limitless, but the first step is making the commitment to consider the planet a top priority and provide for its health and safety.

-Jenni Brown


6 Comments so far
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This is a great post full of word-pictures that make sustainability seem like it can be a reality. I think I am coming to the place where I agree with you, that the first step in the process of sustainability is a commitment to do something. We must do it on a personal basis, and nations must begin it on the global stage.



Cindy Olsen

Comment by cindyol

Its interesting how the word, “commitment” is beginning to become synonymous with the word “Sustainability”. When I opened the google books attachment I was shocked by all of the yellow markings covering the pages to highlight the use of the word “commitment.” I think people have began to realize that Sustainability is a commitment and that we can’t achieve a sustainable environment until sacrifices are made and people absolve, and commit, to truly make that change. Great story from the ENS Newswire. The Carbon Reduction Commitment looks like a fantastic program that should bring about a lot of change! According to http://blog.businessgreen.com/2009/07/childhood-remin.html it will also rank them in a league table showing which organizations have performed the best… and the worst. I think its great that government is finally taking actions to make people face up and clean up. I wonder if companies are going to feel negatively toward this commitment and fight against it if they are ranked low.

-Jenni Brown

Comment by Jenni


Great post! That poem should be required reading as part of a green education for a lot of kids. I remember “performing” that poem with the other kids from the Speech Club when I was in elementary school. My mom loved it so much that she began referencing it when disciplining my brother and I for not taking out the garbage. Being enlightened kids, however, we often shot back that we wouldn’t have to take out the garbage as often if our family recycled.

The rolling, seemingly alive mass of garbage depicted isn’t just a reminder of what can happen to our homes if we don’t take out the trash, like you said. To me, it’s definitely a symbol of what can happen to the planet if we continue on our current path. Poems like “Sarah Cynthia…” and movies like “Wall-E” are good tools for opening children’s eyes to this reality. I wonder if these media are changing perceptions in children or if they just see it as fiction.

Comment by TreyW

You Rock! Shel Silverstein is my all-time favorite poet; one I can actually read and understand his meaning. I really wish I could live by his phylosophy; never grow up, never wear shoes.

There is a book that struck me the first time I read it. My father had just died of a long drawn out battle with cancer; I was 12. “The Giving Tree” told the story of my Grandparents and their love for me. Because of many family troubles, our closets are overflowing with ghosts, I was often shipped off to live with my Grandparents.
The reason the book struck home was that my father had died, but I was closer to my Grandfather and did not realize/understand the loss.

Anyway, you brought back a bitter-sweet memory that actually defines Sustainment. In the book, the tree gives all it has, until there is nothing left but a stump for an old man to rest his bottom on.

This was a book Silverstein wrote about what we are doing to our planet, I still have a copy. At this URL you can get information about the book: http://www.shelsilverstein.com/indexSite.html

there is another from youtube, but I cannot review it, so I will let you check it out rather than post it.

Thanks for a great post!


Comment by angelajon

Thank you so much for your kind words! It’s amazing to know that one little poem has had so much effect on people. You’re right that Shel Silverstein writes in a way that you can really understand what he is trying to say.

I absolutely love the story of the Giving Tree. My sister just had a baby and I gave her a copy of that book to read to him. I suppose I never realized how much Shel Silverstein is an advocate for the environment. It’s interesting that he is so passionate about it, and most people just see him as an author of funny poems.
Have you seen the poem “The Unforgiving Tree”? It’s a parody by the Pertty Bible Fellowship (http://pbfcomics.com/) of the Giving Tree and in the tagline it says, “Apologies, Silverstein”.

You can view the comic here at http://mrbrblack.blogspot.com/2008/04/cartoons.html

It’s kind of humorous, saying that eventually the tree got fed-up and ate the little boy instead of giving him apples to eat.


Comment by jennibro


I like that you reference Wall-E. I remember the night I saw it in the theatres. I walked out and thought, ” Pixar just established itself to an adult audience.” I feel like Wall-E has so much information in it that it’s been able to really give a message to the public without being blatent or forceful about the issues.
To educate through entertainment about very real dangers is smart! By making the spokesperson a robot that can wiggle his way into your heart is genius! Not only did Wall-E adress environmental issues, it also delved into adressing obesity, healthy lifestyles and a culture that takes everything for granted.

Have you seen “Up”? Through subtle nuance they deliver the message about sustaining biodiversity, and leaving things in their natural habitat to conserve the way of life. They show what can happen when man interferes.

I think Pixar is going to achieve great things in changing childrens, and adults, opinions when it comes to difficult issues. I’m curious to see what the future holds for Pixar and what they are going to teach us next.

Great comment Trey!


Comment by jennibro

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