The manufacturing company that makes our trashcan is called Simple Human. Isn’t that romantic? We invented trash; the credit is ours. Scientists found four new species of animal and plastic at the deepest point of the ocean. We’ve been completist in our waste inventions, romantic too. But trash as human legacy? I didn’t see that coming when I was a kid. I didn’t see the plastic bag I threw away everyday after my peanut butter sandwich for lunch or the paper plates we used at breakfast every morning. It didn’t occur to me that cans of soda were wasteful or that the Aqua Net hairspray I brandished for prom night hair could erode the ozone that protects us. It took seven shampoos to recover my hair’s natural texture after prom. I knew the stuff was toxic, just not its cost.
The notion of what is disposable came up in conversation Monday night but dressed up as letting go. I Marie Kondo-ed my life like everyone else did this January and had a fling with minimalism. I wrote this to my best friend: I only want to own one shell. But monogamy felt better in theory than practice. I get seized by romance for the new thing, the out of reach thing, the better thing, the undiscovered. My attention span is a culprit, my apathy too and of course I think too often about myself. The buckling world reduced to a desk, a worry, an audition, a window unit air-conditioner straining through August to sustain my ideal temperature. I look at my deliriously cute dog and husband and get distracted. If they are they, how can the world be doomed?
Isn’t it romantic? The force of it all. That this abiding (or finite), unknowable future is altered by us, by what we throw away, say, never say, believe? Our footprint, climatologists call it. The deniers, I’ll call them unromantic, swear we are faultlessly in control. They must be very lonely at night. Tucked in bed, heavy pockets, thoughts and prayers, reality-reducing sleep masks over their eyes. Don’t they also lather their kids at the beach with 270 SPF sunscreen like the rest of us? Maybe they vacation at virtual beaches, where the sun doesn’t rise or set but drones on in a Truman Show loop of monotony. An emoji of the paradise we stand to lose.
The romantic in me says it’s not that bad. There are children in the streets lighting the path, resisting ambivalence and criminality, diving into the unknown with courage and fight. But they are children. Children. And we’ve saddled them with ruin, the owning we can’t own. Here’s romance for you: I don’t think anyone really loves money, borders, cruelty, or things. Perhaps we value the trash we make because it insinuates our significance, a battle for domination, against the enormity of nature. We will lose this battle; we aren’t a worthy opponent; the earth will take the day. The children, freshly in love with the mess we’ve made, the only planet they’ve ever known, must be our legacy. We made them too.