Uh oh. I made a fuss on an airplane.
As the drink cart came slowly down the aisle and finally made its way to me, I asked for water. I asked for water to be poured from the one liter plastic bottle they were serving it from into my own steel water bottle. I wanted water, but without the plastic cup.
Why the plastic cup? Perhaps in some nod to civility, so that a person might drink from a glass-like thing called a disposable cup, or so that ice could be added.
I wondered, is it more cost effective to store ice on the plane than it is to keep the drinks cold on their own? Do drinks even need to be cold? Is it cheaper to divvy the portions from small cans and bottles into smaller cups than it would be to simply serve the soda or water straight from its original single-use disposable container? Or is there some reason that a single-use disposable situation must be implemented?
They told me health regulations. They told me the FAA might be on the plane watching the flight crew to make sure that no one was served water except in a plastic cup. My flight experience, somehow, is beholden to the plastic industry that is poisoning the food and water, the people, the planet, and the oceans. It all looks so calm from up here but the world below is fighting for its life because we up here are using plastic single-use disposables.
I feel trapped not just in a crazy-plane but in a culture that can’t get it’s head out of its “we’re too busy to wash a glass” butt.
The amount of use-only-once plastic I see right in front of me just on this one little plane, is enough to poke a hole in that place in my heart where there is still a well of hope that this culture can be transformed, that we can regain some class, that the planet might be saved from suffocating under a toxic plastic heap.
Every day we waste. We pollute. We fall victim to the so-called convenience, which is no longer just a convenience but a way of life. A total way that our society is organized around this single use disposable practice. We have buried our dignity, our sanity, our respect for the places we live, for the food we eat, in a throw-away culture.
Plastic does not turn into a pumpkin after one use. It still works, but for some reason we act like it’s okay to use something once and throw it away. We act or pretend like it is cleaner, forgetting that the entire global ecosystem is crashing in large part, because of plastic and other disposables.
The global life is dying because we are killing it by lying to ourselves that plastic is cleaner than a steel water bottle. We forget to look behind the curtain and see what is really going on, where the plastic came from and where it is going and how it is contaminating our bodies and our planet.
I am drinking wine out of the small glass bottle on this airplane. The wine came with another plastic cup with a paper napkin stuffed inside, both of which I had to return. So I have this bottle that will be garbage momentarily, and they are pushing more and more single use disposables on me. The fight you have to go through just to reduce, not even eliminate your senseless consumption!
In between flights, at the Philadelphia airport, I got two breadsticks at some chain store. They started wrapping them in ungodly amounts of tin foil so that I could immediately remove them eat them and dispose. I asked for just one piece of tin foil. The clerk did not understand. Another clerk came over and he tried to explain to the first one but her poor English or her
lack of creativity prevented it. The second clerk took over. “Just one tin foil?”
Yes. One. Somehow I ended up with three pieces of tin foil to wrap two bread sticks. Slight of hand? I don’t know what happened but I was duped again.
I’m just at a loss in America. Who can explain to me what is going on? Why we are so hideously wasteful? Why have we decided that this is okay? Why are we killing ourselves and the planet in our own filth?
When traveling to other countries I always think that the true measure of the level of civilized culture a group of people has achieved is in how they manage their waste. If we look at how America manages its waste (plastic, paper, nuclear, fracking fluids, agricultural nitrogen, etc.) it might easily be said that the great American civilization (the civilized, lofty,
nation on a hill, cultured part of it) is in serious decline—and this time, unlike the past environmental catastrophe induced declines of smaller cultures, it could mean the end of global human civilization as we know it. All so nobody has to wash a glass.
Liz Brown Morgan is the founder of Backyard Agrarian, the inventor of TareWare, and the author of the Falcon Guide to Foraging in the Rocky Mountains (expected publication Spring 2013 by Pequot Press).
Editor: Seychelles Pitton