J500 Media and the Environment

Warm feelings for an icy chest by jmuselmann

Once upon a time last week, I decided to start making a change. I guess it was what is languidly referred to by communications and philosophy people as “cognitive dissonance” that finally caught up with me. I started staring at all those paper latte cups I had with me every day and thought, god, this is ridiculous. The sheer amount of cups and lids I use was not only a green atrocity, but also shed light on how much of a caffeine goon I am. So I finally drug my thermos and my computer around for a day to try on my sustainability hat.

All went well—I saved the lives of at least two cups, only to be used by the people in line behind me, and spared a few spiraled pages for another day. But guess what? That evening I found my computer charger—among other things—dowsed in my spoiled latte swill from eight hours ago. And I suddenly remembered why I had previously stopped lugging the adult sippy cups. Charger defunct. Spirits again tarnished.

Every time I attempt things like this, they end in folly, I often think. Then I look in my fridge and wonder how I was surprised. It is a sick sight: food wrappers I somehow couldn’t take out of the fridge; half a can of soup saved in vain; condiments that have been rifled through with messy hands halfway through a meal (likely the Ramen “needed something”); my prized thick, pulpy orange juice; yogurt, for those creamy personal moments I need after a long day; and most recently, evidence of my new-found appreciation for Kraft Singles, as articulated by an old friend. And in the thick of a terrible winter, my new way of storing groceries (wherein refrigerated items are extracted while the rest is left in bags on the floor until time of use) points to the subtle, horrifying laziness I am capable of. How is it again that I can stab at sustainability when my own lifestyle is so… dilapidated? Can a messy person make the world cleaner?

Indeed, to present oneself as sustainable suggests a certain degree of organization, say not virtue for those that can seem to pull it off—and that’s why it  makes everyone feel terrible; it’s like self-righteous in-laws (by Mother Nature) with a political fervor to fuss until everyone feels bad, even for trying. But sustainability is also an idea—and a motivation—that emerges in odd, unexpected new shapes every day, and we should be open to them. Though we continue to discover dazzling complexities of nature each day, models to help the planet don’t have to be. Nor does someone  have to trod weightless on the planet to recognize how ornate and delicate it is. And I thought lugging the thermos was too tedious.

Somehow, something wells up in me—call it guilt, call it sporadic moral compunction, call it optimism—to try new ways to render myself less abrasive for the environment, and, when they end in disaster, to try another way.

—Jacob Muselmann


4 Comments so far
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I am not sure that for someone to present him or herself as sustainable should mean that they are “organized” or have more “virtue” than anyone else. Don’t you think that some people do it because it can actually save time and money in the long run? -Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev

Yes, of course I do. But I doubt that’s the norm, because more people would be doing it. Maintaining a sustainable life— to the extent that it is overt, and because it often requires going out of one’s way—typically suggests a certain degree of organization and passion.
—Jacob M.

Comment by jmuselmann

What you describe isn’t a lack of sustainability. It’s just the slow process of actually getting used to the lifestyle. If it were really easy, we’d all be doing it perfectly.

~Ben C.

Comment by Ben

Yes. I hope I made that clear.

Comment by jmuselmann

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