While having dinner with Krista and Serge last night, Serge wondered, "Is waste and trash only a problem if they cause sickness to someone?"
This post is for the sociologists out there. I am wondering at what point something becomes a problem big enough that people feel compelled to take action about it. This seems to tie together a lot of threads I have been trying to articulate over the past few weeks - visibility versus invisibility of trash, broken cycles, problem definition, and the scales of trash formation. I thought about this because there is a potentially big problem we are in the process of creating, and it is likely to be significant in the near future - drugs, pesticides and hormones in water. These are of course, much more silent and invisible threats than real physical trash, yet are still another manifestation of the same fundamental problems we have in our society.
I went to a talk by Professor Tyrone Hayes of UC Berkeley a couple of years ago, in which he talked about the growing amount of atrazine being washed into drinking waters, and waters in which amphibians breed. This pesticide, which is used in large amounts for growing corn, has the potential to turn male frogs into hermaphrodites.
Below is a picture of various drugs and anti-depressants that are now commonly found in fish living downstream of sewage facilities (from the National Geographic).
Our sewage treatment facilities also do not clean our waters for birth control hormones, the concentrations of which have been increasing in drinking water.
I don't mean to sound all negative and pessimistic, but these are serious issues, and again, an indication that things just aren't right. Now, what does it take to get people motivated enough to realise that this is a problem of waste, degradation, and pollution? What does it take for us to make linkages in our minds and hearts between these problems, that on the surface may seem disconnected, yet are manifestations of the same problem?