The Judgement of the World

Defending Our Oceans Tour - Hawaii Trash (Hawaii: 2006)

This is only indirectly germane to this site, but it is a fact that will relativise many of the ideological arguments between us on the blog.

Take a look at The Trash Vortex. Where I live, Tuesday is what my wife and I call La Sainte Poubelle, dustbin collection day. In our village, we have the “normal” rubbish in black plastic bin liners, “recyclables” in translucid yellow plastic bags and we take the glass bottles ourselves to the bottle bank. We have to take more bulky stuff and metal, together with domestic machines that don’t work and can’t be repaired, to the municipal dump. So, there is an effort made in sorting all the stuff so that it will be burned, decomposed with chemicals, recycled in special factories, all sorts of processes. We have become more conscious of this problem since environmentalism became a part of “political correctness” – in this instance rightly so.

Yet a big percentage of indestructible plastic ends up in the sea, a small amount from boats and oil platforms, but mostly from the land. Deliberately dumped? Who knows? Whatever, this stuff is killing fish, sea mammals and birds. The trash vortex is the size of Texas. Every time I take my boat out on the English Channel, there are bits and pieces. I take a shopping bag with me, and catch a few bits of rubbish if I can get close enough, and put them in the bin when I put in on the shore. I ask myself what’s the use. Will it all end up back in the sea?

What goes into our dustbins? Mostly, it is the packing materials we buy our food in at the supermarket – all plastic and polystyrene. Every week, there are heaps of the stuff to put in the dustbin and have taken away by the refuse men. Multiply that quantity by the number of persons living in my village. Compressed, it takes the space of a whole lorry – every week, every year. And there has only been plastic in mass production since the 1950’s. European regulations require the packing of food in this type of container on grounds of hygiene. Domestic appliances are made according to principles of planned obsolescence. It works for the warranty period, and then it can’t be repaired for less than the cost of a replacement product. So the old one is thrown away and you buy a new appliance – fridges, cookers, dishwashers, washing machines, you name it. Then we have the old tyres and used oil of our cars – that really gets me going! Washing machines can be repaired, but we have to do it ourselves and find spare parts via the internet and that sort of thing. It’s usually the solenoid valve that goes, or the machine is full of calcium deposits. It’s laborious, and most modern people can’t be bothered with doing a job the old-fashioned way.

This is the reality of the capitalist – consumer world. It’s all big money for someone who hasn’t a care for anyone or anything else.

Perhaps the world will survive us – just a couple of million years for the plastic to decompose after the extinction of mankind – nothing compared with the time the earth has left before being frazzled by the sun when it becomes a supernova. That would be a few billion years. Mankind could come to a sticky end – probably through starvation and disease, out with a whimper. We will have consumed everything we can grab – and will have replaced it with stuff that kills the very natural life we won’t be able to eat. These reflections don’t exactly put me in a good mood!

We can pray, get people to join our “true churches”, something that becomes a cruel joke. Some of us might become Greenpeace activists. I’m not really into political activism, but evil comes about by good men doing nothing. At least, we can pause and think what we are doing to ourselves and the planet Earth as if there were no tomorrow. Some conservative Christians upbraid liberals for being concerned about the environment, but the reality is there.

I have no real conclusion. We can’t all afford to buy food from traditional grocery shops that wrap their products in paper. We have no control over our rubbish once the dustbin men take it away. We can avoid throwing trash out of our car windows or boats, unless it is organic like an apple core or a bone from a piece of meat. Every little bit adds up to that incredible “continent” of plastic crap in the middle of the ocean.

We can do what we can, which is very little, but I really hate the ideology that produces the problem – the few getting rich and to hell with the rest! We can at least think about it, and that will be a part of knowing whether the Christian Gospel is really a part of us or just another ideology.

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2 Responses to The Judgement of the World

  1. Stephen K says:

    A reflection like this is very salutary. We cannot really imagine time periods for more than a couple of millennia, and even then we have to ceaselessly plunder in order to re-learn the lesssons of history – which we don’t very well. The whole thing becomes a blur. The idea that we could, collectively (no doubt ‘orthodox’ Christians included), play a part in the extinction of our own species does not seem to have percolated through to most of us. The projected certainty of the death of our sun and our planet is in some ways directly opposed to any narrative that would insist that salvation depends on the kinds of things that are typically insisted upon as ‘lex orandi, lex credendi’. Indeed, when the finiteness of our little speck of the solar system is really considered, the religious narrative that starts to make most sense is the apocalyptic one, in which we have to live as if the world and we will all be destroyed, horribly, and the Anti-Christ is ourselves: Muntzer, Jones and David Koresh were just a few of the more spectacularly tragic and terrible practitioners. The real concept that doesn’t seem to filter through is that we are finite, our systems, our religions (even Christianity) is finite, disposable, and that we are not the pinnacle of creation after all: the narrative of the incarnation is not of an historical climax but of an episode with which a speckworth of humanity has busied itself for a speckworth of time.

    Only the idea that meaning is contextual, not absolute, and that there is value in loving and caring for both our neighbour and fellow creatures and the planet “while we may” saves us from despair and puts our doctrinal and liturgical squabbles into a different perspective

    • I don’t know anything about economics, but it seems to me that the classical system of money means that if some people have it all and most have nothing, there is no way to bargain with the impoverished majority. The rich people wouldn’t have anyone to sell their products to. But, I see things too simply. Economics (making money out of nothing like the banks do) is a science – and I don’t want to know, a bit like my late mother and a car. If it doesn’t go, I don’t want to know why!

      Will the little people fight back, not in a symbolic way like the Occupy movement, but really? The planet could be saved by mankind abandoning modernity. We would have to learn to live without electricity, easy and fast transport and essentially return to the nineteenth century or the eighteenth. But things would not be like they were before.

      Those who have the right values and ideas will learn to live by farming, fishing and bartering. The problem is when you get the “owners” of everything, be they the Papacy, the Aristocracy, banks, multinational corporations, Mafia, etc.

      Perhaps it might happen if money means nothing any more (because the rich will have taken so much from the poor that the poor have nothing more to give), if if there’s some massive uprising. How long can things go on as they are now?

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