Lori Curley: My son insists that I remove every top from every plastic bottle. He does not care that I am elbow-deep in our recycling can. "We are saving seals, Mom." I hate it when he lectures me. I have nothing against the seals, but right now, with my arms dripping with leftover Coke, I feel sorrier for me than any animal stupid enough to swallow a plastic cap. "No, Mom. The seals don't eat the cap, the caps save the seals from research on hair products." Again, I don't get it, and I don't care -- I am scrubbing my arms with sanitizer.
Later that same morning, my hands are scalded by hot coffee in a cheap paper cup. When I ask for a lid, the clear-skinned college kid tells me, "We don't give them out anymore. They are bad for the environment." In the parking lot, my hair is soaked from a sudden downpour, my car is dented from a fallen tree branch, and I begin to wonder. What exactly DO I owe this Earth? How many sandwich-crust-covered bottles must I extract from my garbage? How many more hours must I spend tying newspaper? When will my debt to Mother Earth be paid? And when will I start seeing some reward?
To date, Mother Earth has flooded our basement eight times, destroyed a million umbrellas, and cost us thousands of dollars in insurance that we are forced to carry in fear she will send a vicious tornado through our garage. Last week, four men were struck by lightning, and a toddler was carried off to sea by a rip current. Mansions were burnt to the ground by a forest fire, while hundreds more contracted swine flu. All compliments of "nature."
If each cap I deposit in Troop 241's "Save the Seals" collection box earned us one free pass on disaster, I would not begrudge this dirty task. But I am not certain it is doing much of anything. For all the "green speak," my neighborhood streets and parks are as littered as ever with forgotten wrappers; and the planet itself has not coughed up any new drinking water for the children of Niger. Mosquitoes carrying malaria are still killing thousands in Southern Africa.
I think there are old religions that demand less: a basket of fruit set fire once a month, or a goat.
|Lori Curley, champion mother of two middle-school teenagers, resides in South Orange, NJ. She holds a Masters in Education and has been teaching writing at the college level for 7 years. But can she find a job as a high school English teacher? Or will she pull her hair out first?|