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The environmentally unconscious one; or, Why I love America

Brooks Smith | Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This past weekend I attended the Notre Dame Film Festival. It proceeded pretty much as you’d expect — couple great ones (big ups to the Westboro Baptist Church documentary), lotta decent ones, a clunker or two. There was one movie about garbage in America that followed a group called “Pick Up America,” a bunch of people whose idea of a good time is picking up trash by the side of the road and measuring it. They marshaled some impressively apocalyptic statistics about how there are a trillion kabillion pieces of plastic in the ocean that will be around for hundreds of thousands of years and 100 pounds of trash on the side of any ordinary road.

Personally, I didn’t much care for these eco-Nazis, nor their Goebbels-meets-Riefenstahl approach to youth indoctrination. The comparison to the Nazis works on more than one level: that documentary was an atrocity. A well-meaning, hectoring, sermonizing, passive-aggressive bomb (and not in the sense of explosive power, either), it proved what anyone who’s ever littered has long suspected: environmentalists are morons who hate fun.

But the documentary did have one stimulating effect: it reminded me why I love America so much. Where the documentary showed only the dark side of American power, I have a more positive outlook on the tons of trash that our industrial society is producing. Instead of taking litter as an index of everything that is wrong with society and humanity, I run the analysis backwards. A society is only as powerful, durable and long-lasting as the trash and toxic byproducts it creates.

Take that statistic about plastic I cited earlier. The environmentalists say “there is a 6:1 ratio of plastic to plankton in the ocean” and that most of that plastic will not biodegrade for hundreds of millennia. Is there nobody else who finds this totally badass? What other civilization in the history of the world has wielded so much power and influence over nature? What other civilization has fabricated objects, like these pieces of plastic, which will essentially last forever? This is a form of industrial immortality.

But we live in a society of intense political correctness. So instead of being proud that we’ve invented Coke can holders of plastic that are strong enough to choke a fish or a duck, we’re ashamed of our “adverse environmental impact.” News flash, people: the only way to have zero impact on the environment is to cease to exist, one way or another. We have shaped this planet to reflect our glory and to suit our needs!

Take the greenhouse effect. What if someone told you, “Hey So-and-so, according to science, we’re producing so many heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere that soon the entire earth will be tropically warm, the beaches will move further inland so middle America isn’t so boring and basically it’s gonna be like the world is a Caribbean paradise.” This, as I understand it, is the scientific community’s predictions if “global warming” and “climate change” are left unchecked. I think the question most sane people would ask, faced with this eventuality, is “How can we build as many coal-fired factories with huge smokestacks as possible?”

So be of good cheer, my friends. Maybe the world is coming to an end if we don’t smart up and fix some piddling environmental issues. But, as one of my Facebook friends’ profiles says in their Favorite Quotes section, “Life is a party and parties weren’t meant to last.” In other words, eat, drink, be merry and litter. It’s all part of the one party I’m proud to belong to: the American Party, where the booze is cheap, the girls are cute and actions don’t have consequences because “you were too hammered to know what you were doing bro!”

I invite all of my readers to crack a bottle as they read this last paragraph and toast to America. And when they finish their bottle, I invite them to discard it wherever the mood strikes them.

Brooks Smith is a senior studying honors mathematics at the University of Notre Dame. He can be contacted at bsmith26@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.