Stop trying to save the planet
Contrary to the sign at the grocery store, it's pretty safe to say you will not be able to save the Earth by purchasing a reusable bag. Do an experiment: buy a canvas bag and see if the issue is then resolved. If it's not, it means the slogan for the environmental movement and the way it's framed can stand to be re-visited.
Saving a planet is lofty; a bit over-reaching. After all, the planet is indifferent to us and sometimes cruel. See: earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and snowmageddon. According to televangelist Pat Robertson, the Earth is God's own hit man waiting to take out entire nations or cities rumored to have snubbed Him. Who needs or wants to save such a bully? This planet is a mass murderer. A giant ball of malice to our race.
"You want to save me?! Here's a tectonic jolt. Save yourselves."
The Earth doesn't need saving. If we divorce ourselves from the hyperbole and look at it rationally, even with nuclear annihilation the Earth will survive humans. The Earth is billions of years old. Our species is a relatively new infestation of the past couple million years. The biggest impact we've had so far is to make ourselves and the species around us sick. Between the two, humans are the more vulnerable, even though there are arguably more of us; it's humans that need some saving to survive the Earth.
An environmental movement, based on science and provable evidence, would have more credibility by using that sense when discussing their issues. It's become one side screaming business will assassinate us all and we'll choke and die on the debris of our own hubris and the other side justifying pollution for personal gain and touting the Apocalypse as an out-clause for the tediousness of separating plastics. In their extremes the two sides are both doomsayers, clinging to their own version of the end, cursing at each other for willful ignorance.
The extremes agree that it's ending soon and the other side is to blame. So there's no need for discussion.
What we, the rest of us, need is -- wait for it -- a hybrid, a way to bridge the divide.
"Save the Planet" is so unobtainable it's a non-goal. Save us. Save humans. Save human kind. We clearly like saving people. The newsreel footage of the well-to-do nations of the world mobilizing in rapid response to the Haitian earthquake plus the millions of dollars in small donations to the victims shows we occasionally step up.
There's some stepping up to be done. Just a random sampling of environmental stories this week, comes up with The Great Pacific Garbage Patch and its Atlantic cousin. They've been described as floating landfills in the middle of the oceans. They're giant wades, by some estimates millions of tons of toxic plastic swirling around in these bodies of water, some of it at a microscopic level. Will the Earth die from it? No, the Earth will wait it out and survive. Can the fish that eat it be harmed? Yes. Can we who eat those fish be harmed? Yes. Should that be seen as a reason to look into a solution for the problem? Yes.
The Earth is fine. Resilient. Strong. Massive. Self-sufficient really, save the sun and the moon. But us? Our species? Our race? The little people hanging out here, we need some help. And we should help ourselves.
So the sign on the cloth grocery bags, there to encourage cutting down on waste, how about, "Help Save Us." I'll buy that. I'll even remember to take them out of my car when I go shopping.
Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and the editor of FishbowlLA.com.