Is there more plastic debris spread upon the American landscape than stars in the sky? I think so.
The spread of litter and trash may have reached the point of no return, as far as our ability as a people to turn back the clock and reverse this stain upon our nation, making the United States one of the dirtiest places in the world. The ever-present evidence shows clearly our loss of a “land ethic.”
Two aspects of our consumer society—individuals and corporations—are guilty of causing this behavior. Convenient fast products are sold in mass quantities to individuals by corporations that promote and manufacture these products in a free market. Convenience has taken over, becoming a force that leads to this sign of social degeneration. Convenience needs to be defined as being absent or free from responsibility. For example, a corporation like Coke or Pepsi or any giant plastic-producing enterprise makes products for the open market. This is the cause; the effect is pollution, litter and trash, in amounts so great one cannot escape these eyesores and the offensive sight that stands before us. So what do corporations do as a direct result of their products’ impacts? Nothing.
Buying their products also makes you responsible and depending on who you are, you either do or not accept the responsibility. However, when the result is mass pollution, for which only the corporation can be held responsible, they still are not held responsible. No sense of social responsibility is forthcoming from the corporations that make the products that pollute.
On their own, corporations already should have voluntarily initiated a workforce that receives payment for cleaning up their mess and for encouraging proper social attitudes and actions that would keep the nation clean and free from their products’ waste. For example; shouldn’t they be helping the National Parks, our nations’ gems, stay clean through a litter abatement labor force? (The National Park Service has suffered much from recent budget cuts, while corporations receive more and more tax breaks). This responsibility is passed off to the public through feeble recycling and clean communities’ programs that, in reality, do little to combat this corporate phenomenon.
The thing is, we believe America is beautiful, but we ignore or deny what has happened to our land and its people. Is not the “loss of a land ethic” a form of mental illness—a systemic result of mass production of convenience that encourages this negative impact, even as we deny it at the same time?
If there was truly a love of our country, call it patriotism if you will, then our landscapes would be clean, or there would be an uproar by Congress to stop what has happened to our country. Corporations have the money and our economy is controlled by them; this model serves them, not the people, from the spread of sprawl and development of shopping malls to the never ending result of the trash that this way of life leaves behind. It shows the difference between a real nation and a land that has lost its sense of responsibility.
One nation under God. We are a nation divided by greed and by an economic system that has outlived its purpose and meaning. No land ethic, no nation. Freedom is a farce and the dynamic of consumerism only suits the selfish. The more money one has, the more one wants; this, too, is a kind of mental illness.
America needs to clean its house, literally, and corporations need to be made responsible.
[Nick Homyak is from Lake Hiawatha, NJ.]