Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Nexus: Disposability

A few years ago Nezua (one of my favorite bloggers) wrote a series about Nexus. In it, he was trying to find the tie that binds so many of our concerns. For example, in the first installment, he found that the grounding of so much that divides us is a sense of entitlement...and the antidote is gratitude.

Similarly, Van Jones has found a nexus in the idea of disposability.

For a longer version (13 minutes), here's a talk Jones gave at TED about the effects of plastics on poor people. From about 6:12:

The root of this problem, in my view, is the idea of disposability itself. You see, if you understand the link between what we're doing to poison and pollute the planet and what we're doing to poor people, you arrive at a troubling but also very helpful insight. In order to trash the planet, you have to trash people. But if you create a world where you don't trash people, you can't trash the planet.

We're at a moment of the coming together of social justice as an idea and ecology as an idea. We can finally see that they are now one idea. And its the idea that we don't have a disposable anything. We don't have disposable resources. We don't have disposable species. And we don't have disposable people either. We don't have a throw-away planet and we don't have throw-away children. Its all precious.

Perhaps the most powerful statement about this is the question..."When we talk about throwing away - where is away?"

This idea resonates powerfully with me because I've been working with throw-away children for over 30 years. I was moved as much as anyone by the senseless murder of Christina Taylor Green a couple of weeks ago. And I grieve her loss along with the rest of the country. But I couldn't help but think of the hundreds of other children who are murdered in gun violence in our cities every day - grieved only by their loved ones. We don't talk about their loss or do much of anything to try to stop it. They feel expendable to me. And we don't seem to mind that nationally, 1 in 3 Black and 1 in 6 Latino boys born in 2001 are at risk of imprisonment during their lifetime. We seem content to throw them away.

On the other hand, I'm starting to grapple myself with our level of consumption of things - and our willingness to throw things away. I recently did some re-decorating in my house. As I pondered new carpet and furniture, I wondered where the old stuff would go. I could see my old carpet going to a landfill and sitting there - for generations. It wouldn't "go away." It would just be moved to a new location.

We are going to have to grapple with this idea of disposability. Its not real. Its an illusion. And perhaps the way to start that process is to contemplate the reality of where these things and people go that we so casually think we're throwing away.

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