Recovering Our Nation's Capitol
Over a quarter of a century ago, I had a dream as the District's first recycling coordinator. Prosperity and ingenuity are interrelated. Waste in DC can be utilized once we all better manage the bountiful forms of liquid, solid, gaseous, human, and other resources that are neglected. In the nation's capital, the city government knows exactly where your car is parked. But this town consumes more and knows less where the things it consumes end up than any other American city. This will change.
Discovery happens in the act of recovery, which inspired me to create Ray CycleTM in 1981 while I was working for the D.C. Energy Office. Working to recycle paper and used oil, I created this educational character for my peace of mind. Later, I traded in my tights and ecology flag cap for a new costume when I got Ray's name trademarked, sharing it with the State of Connecticut. I became a court jester campaigning on April Fools Day at the US Capitol steps, proclaiming, "You are not dealing with a full deck when you throw the joker out!" Shakespeare once said, "I had rather a fool make me merry than experience to make me sad."
Over the past 25 years, I have observed that this region ignores what we lose. This reckless loss has both domestic and international implications, and I have tried to call attention to them. In my early twenties I testified before Congress and helped build a used-oil recycling facility. I even have done volunteer work in Africa, recycling oil in Namibia. But my last job helping the rural poor with water and waste was cut by the Feds. For over a year, I have been unemployed as I search for similar sorts of work. Why do we not value and reward those who wish to save things?
I estimate Americans use, discard and recycle more than 17 billion tons of waste, not including nuclear and hazardous waste. For years, I've watched the government waste trillions of dollars in programs coming out of the Pentagon, Medicare, Homeland Security, Agriculture and a host of other sources of pork projects. This activity has profound, destructive implications. You do not have go far to see how uncontrolled America is, evidenced by a Federal budget that continues to squander our grandchildren's chances.
There is an "out of sight, out of mind" violence happening with our "wasted mentality" culture. This act threatens our very well being, a form of waste that hides itself in many ways. We must detect the consequences by tracking waste more completely and responsibly. Yes, more people recycle than vote in the U.S., but we still tend to value "ending" over "mending." I am not just talking about appliances, but people, places and things. Our very freedom is in question until we wake from the nightmare myth that we have a limitless supply of goods and the right to do things that harm others.
Just consider a few by-products we all create. Where do our old computers go? Yearly, millions of old computers, spent mercury lamps, cell phones and other waste from our "e-culture" - materials that contain thousands of tons of toxins - are released into our environment.
Yankee ingenuity must be reborn. We need frugal American leaders to stimulate true economy. Remember that our ancestors founded this nation with thrift. George Washington was one the first dedicated composters, and all of the revolutionary era patriots recycled and reused. Promoting sustainable economic growth by transforming waste will be an investment in the world's future prosperity. Both a transformational attitude and the gratitude of those who come after us will be the end result. A crisis is at hand, and it should make us ask how we can better conserve and practice daily acts that preserve.
Prosperity will pick up when we each salvage every form of resource imaginable for future Washingtonians. Responding to our national debt, citizens must counter with skillful forms of saving. That we will have to face our spending addiction is not a matter of if, but when. Reaching a tipping point in the direction of sanity will show the world we do practice what we preach. And we must keep in mind that American consumption is even killing us by our dangerous diet of junk food. So let's dump less toxic stuff in our trash and walk and ride our bikes more. We must explore what we have pushed "out of sight." We, the people, must become more lean and green. Our happiness depends on this. As we show greater respect for people, places and things, we will feel better about out future.
Copyright Rob Arner - All Rights Reserved.
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