Same old garbage…

(The following was written in March 2008 when the US primaries were in full swing, gasoline was around $4. It still expresses some of my deepest concerns.)

When I shop at groceries around town, I always bring my basket and a few empty paper bags. Have been doing this for years. Still the bagger (bagging person?) looks at me strange when I tell him/her that I don’t want a bag. They always try to use the most plastic possible. I don’t need extra plastic bags for my ice cream, broccoli, bananas. Many times did I ask them to take stuff out of plastic bags – ‘what a weirdo’ is the look I get.

I remember many years ago in Germany when costs for garbage pickup went higher and higher people started unpacking some goods which came in unnecessary packaging right at the store on the belt and they left the extra cardboard and plastic at the store. Let them pay for the disposal. Manufacturers and distributors took note and packaging was scaled back.

Now, the gas prices. Did I hear right? John McCain promises to lower gas prices by suspending taxes on gasoline? Wait, isn’t it a free market economy? If we use more gasoline and other oil-based products wouldn’t that naturally raise the price? Of course changing the way vehicles get taxed would be fairer if done according to gas consumption and environmental impact. Mr. McCain, what about giving people who drive fuel efficient vehicles a tax break, instead? That might actually get a few people to say good-bye to their gas guzzlers. (Have you ever stopped at a gas station at 2 in the morning where the person on the next pump had the engine running while filling up, then going in to buy some more stuff, take a leak, have a chat with the attendant, etc. Have you ever asked her/him if they were aware that in those 8 minutes they just burned enough gas to travel a few miles (ok, I don’t remember the numbers exactly). Chances are you’ll get a pretty angry response – after all, this is America where people can do whatever they want even if it’s stupid.)

And just as I was taking a little bike tour in my neighborhood this very pretty evening I noticed that at almost every house lawns were being mowed on the ever so popular riding mower. Actually many of the mower-riders looked like they could do with a little exercise. In addition the properties are not really that big and the grass really hasn’t grown much yet. I also noticed all the garbage in the ditches. Mostly plastic bottles, plastic bags, lots of beer bottles and half empty McDonald’s bags. How ugly. Don’t you go out and pick up that stuff around your property and maybe across the street every once in a while? Oh, right, you didn’t put it there. And it really doesn’t bother you unless your kid happens to run around barefoot in your front yard and steps on the remains of someone’s empty beer bottle.

I have only lived in the US since the late 1980’s but that stuff bugs me. In Germany we used to think of America as the country where people take action, are independent and creative. Wasn’t the first man to land on the moon a U.S. citizen? Not to put it all down, but people put all sorts of ‘proud to be American’ stickers on their cars, but it seems the way most of them treat this country, the environment and often their fellow citizens expresses neglect, ignorance and small mindedness.

Sorry. Going too far. It could be so great…… But there is only one ship and if that goes down we all go with it.