Thursday, September 16, 2010

Experiencing beauty, and the trash borne of it

Trash is borne out of, and is a byproduct of, our desire to control what we experience. Humans are the only animal species I can think of that want to control what happens to them. We build our homes such that air conditioning will keep the air temperature at 70 degrees Fahrenheit year round, we set our alarms to wake us up at predetermined times, and we cook food to our tastes. One consequence of this is that we've lost our abilities to cope with situations we were able to cope with in the past - living off of what we find, for example. But our ability to control what we experience has also led us to places where humans cannot survive, and yet are incredibly beautiful places - the depths of oceans, space, and the peaks of mountains. These places instill in us a sense of wonder and amazement, but to a degree only if someone knows about it, experiences it, and shares the experience. I didn't know about Bahamian blue holes until I read about them, but once I realised what they were, I thought they were beautiful, and it would be a wonderful experience to see them in person. Unfortunately, the only way we can control what we experience is to have something, a man-made product with us. Furthermore, these products, once they have served their purposes, become excess baggage on our voyages. What we do in the end is taint these pristine environments with our presence by leaving behind what is essentially trash.

For example, we have turned Mount Everest into the world's highest garbage dump. There are more than 100 tons of trash lying on Mount Everest. "The government of Nepal has taken steps toward protecting Mt. Everest. Thanks to a 1992 law, if climbers leave any nonbiodegradable trash such as plastic containers on the mountain, they lose a $4,000 pre-expedition deposit. A Sherpa incentive program, instituted in 1994, pays Sherpas for every discarded oxygen bottle they retrieve from the mountain. Glass bottles were banned on Everest in 1998."

But also think about the Clif bar you take on your trip into the woods, or the canister of propane you carry to make some soup while camping, or the band-aid you keep just in case you cut yourself rock-climbing. In our quest to observe beauty, we taint it.

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