Should You Bother Recycling?

This previous school year, my students in Environmental Science led our school’s recycling initiative. They absolutely loved it. From making catchy morning announcements each Tuesday to designing posters and then the thrill of being out of the class and visiting each classroom from Pre-K’s to other 12th-grade classes was a blast for them (and me). We’d get questions such as “what’s the point?” every so often that I hear reflected and diffracted from social media and our general culture. 

However, the experience led to great conversations in class about sustainability, the value of our choices, and how we use materials.

 Yes, recycling is “broken” in many ways, as are numerous systems in our society in 2024. However, I firmly believe that by taking the right actions, we can contribute in small but significant ways at our individual levels to effect positive change. The success of our recycling initiative is a testament to this belief, and it should inspire us all to continue our efforts toward a better, more sustainable future.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot..” and all that. From choosing to be a teacher to choosing to pick up that piece of trash in the store parking lot to choosing to be intentional about how we recycle… those choices add up.

Recycling Is Broken. Should I Even Bother? – The New York Times (gift article):

So, is it worth the effort?

In theory, every item you recycle can keep resources in the ground, avoid greenhouse gases and help keep the environment healthy. And that’s all good.

“The value is in displacing virgin materials,” said Reid Lifset, a research scholar at Yale’s School of the Environment.

But here’s the critical part: Don’t wish-cycle.

Follow the instructions provided by your local hauler. If you throw in stuff they don’t want, the effort needed to weed it out makes it less likely that anything will get recycled at all.

Seafloor Sediment Superhighway

Not that bioturbation was on your “To Think About” list for today… but you should think about bioturbation and its role in the larger biosphere. Fascinating stuff!

Mapping the seafloor sediment superhighway | YaleNews:

“Our analysis suggests that the present global network of marine protected areas does not sufficiently protect important seafloor processes like bioturbation, indicating that protection measures need to be better catered to promote ecosystem health,” Tarhan said.

On Darwin and Sapolsky

I’ve just finished Robert Sapolsky’s (excellent) book, Determined. You should read it for yourself, obviously, but Sapolsky does an expert job of providing the argument that our conception of determinism and what we colloquially call “free will” are to be examined under a much stricter microscope society-wide.

These sorts of philosophical arguments rarely escape the ivory tower of The Academy. However, Sapolsky is a masterful speaker and has attracted a good deal of attention in the mainstream for his seemingly outlandish idea that we do not, in fact, possess free will. 

I think he’s right and on to something monumental. If we took his admonishment with intention and began to examine the structures our society (especially our educational systems) place on behavioralism, exceptionalism, and perceived meritocracy… our society would look quite different. Dare I say it would be more just.

I picked up Darwin’s Descent of Man (1871) this morning and began reading. The beginnings of Chapter 4 here lay out a very similar thought construction about where we gather our conception of morality and sympathy in the context of what he labels natural history. 

I was taken by his statement that:

“We are indeed all conscious that we do possess such sympathetic feelings, but our consciousness does not tell us whether they are instinctive, having originated long ago in the same manner as with the lower animals, or whether they have been acquired by each of us during our early years.”

Reading both of these texts together is an incredible thought experiment!

“Change within a lifetime”

Climate change is the ghosts of impacts future….

And so the most effective guard against climate breakdown may not be technological solutions, but a more fundamental reimagining of what constitutes a good life on this particular planet. We may be critically constrained in our abilities to change and rework the technosphere, but we should be free to envisage alternative futures. So far our response to the challenge of climate change exposes a fundamental failure of our collective imagination.

via The Conversation