Save the World?

By Bob Batch

A long, long time ago when I was a kid growing up in Edgewater, there used to be paper drives.  Someone would go around to all the houses in town and collect old newspapers which they would sell in bulk to raise money for something like the Boy Scouts or some other worthy cause.

Bob Batch

I remember Al Von Dohln being one of the people who would spearhead these initiatives.  Those paper drives were also sanctioned by the Town and that’s probably why the organizers got to use the formidable ‘Edgewater Bull Horn’ which was attached to the top of a car and could be driven through the streets heralding upcoming civic events in a loud and commanding voice which can best be imagined in one of those futuristic novels where the state has taken control of everything.

The Edgewater bull horn is no doubt retired now and on display in The Edgewater Museum next to the statue of Ray Calantoni, the beloved recreation director who made the most use of it.  Today, there would be an alert that comes up on your Iphone to inform you of such events, if there were such events.  Now, presumably, we all recycle.  Don’t we?

The paper drives I’m talking about were a hold-over idea from the sort of initiatives that were used during the Second World War when there were shortages of rubber, tin and whatever.  People had such civic spirit back then that they would scavenge for stuff that was needed in the war effort to help the cause.

In our current situation we have a global problem to which we have not responded quite so enthusiastically.  We don’t have anyone driving through the streets with a bull horn, but maybe we should.  We still don’t recycle and conserve energy as much as we should.

I suppose if you look at the whole of human history one of the patterns that emerges is that societies will consume and deplete resources to the point where they collapse.  Populations have farmed themselves out of existence.  Empires have fallen from famine, and the fortune’s of nations have risen and fallen on the availability of food, and lately, energy.

Back in the days of City States and smaller societies you could at least pick up and move to some place more fertile or less polluted.  Where are we going to go if the whole planet is compromised?  It’s a question that the climate change threat poses and nobody knows how to answer  really.

In the spirit of full disclosure I must admit that I am not a conscientious recycler.  I, and millions of other people like me, don’t make a concerted effort to separate materials I put in the garbage.  If there is a special bin for aluminum cans available, sure, I’ll use it, but if I’ve got to work at it I’m not thinking about the amount of energy wasted, the money being saved or helping the environment.

Somehow in our society, and I see this in myself, we’ve come to equate recycling with these down and out homeless people that roam the streets of the city with shopping carts collecting bottles and aluminum cans.  Maybe we need more of them with bull horns.

One of the great fantasies in modern literature, such as it is (I mean comic books and action movies) is the protagonist single handedly saving the world from some evil menace or threat.  We’ve all imagined what it would be like to be a James Bond character defusing the bomb that was going to blow up the world at the very last second.

In reality we are not very likely to be in that position – ever. But collectively we can save the world.  It’s not as glamorous as taking on hordes of ninjas in your tuxedo, but every little bit that each one of us does can collectively make a lot of difference.

This was something that previous generations were somehow more aware of.  Or at least if they weren’t exactly aware of it, they were more inclined to see themselves as part of a greater whole.  Maybe it’s not such a great thing when you’re marching off to be slaughtered in Trench Warfare, but it has its virtues if it can be applied to building things and working together.

One of the things that has probably been lacking in all the efforts to get the whole population on board for conservation and recycling that it is not a war on or conquest of something.  Unfortunately, that is the best motivation for any type of effort we undertake, both here in our country and globally.

We are always engaged in things like ‘The war on poverty’, ‘The conquest of space’, ’The battle of the sexes’, you name it, everything is a conflict.  That’s been the trouble with saving the world, there is no enemy to conquer but ourselves.

Related posts:

  1. The World in Pieces
  2. The World of Tomorrow, Today

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