Philosopher Seeks Plausible Excuse for Planetary Waste & Destruction!

Jun 1, 2024 | Uncategorized

This essay originally appeared in Co-Options, published by our food co-op, Sevananda. I worked there for nine years and ran its recycling program. I also did layout for the paper for a while, including several of my own essays. Dawn and I have been co-op members for over 30 years and it’s still my favorite place to shop. A volunteer-run recycling center behind the building back then was the precursor to Atlanta’s curbside pickup program, which those same volunteers persuaded the city to start . . .


Can anybody out there help the morally handicapped?

Ever since I flunked Basic Rationalization and had to drop my philosophy major, this embarrassing disability has cruelly barred me from the lifestyle of total personal convenience that is every American’s birthright. I envy people who can casually condemn an empty can or used envelope to eternity in a landfill without a twinge. As hard as I try, I can’t come up with a single sophisticated reason for not recycling them – if I can’t actually re-use them instead.

My holistic therapist, Dr. Itzal Goode, believes it’s a self-esteem issue: I just don’t feel worthy of indulging myself at the expense of future generations of wide-eyed children and cute fuzzy animals. But my psychoanalyst, Dr. Effet Feelgood, says I simply suffer from pre-emptive guilt, probably caused by an irony deficiency.

My spiritual guide, Swami Mustabin Mentabi, recommends that I work on mastering moral detachment. But my pastor, Rev. O’Reginald Zinn, attributes my ethical challenges to the sin of Pride: I can’t stand to be less ecologically correct than a bureaucratic institution like the City of Atlanta with its curbside recycling program.

Professor Haddit Cumming, an expert on The Law of Attraction at Harvard Law School, states that people living in poverty are responsible for attracting their underprivileged lifestyle, which has irresistibly attracted strip mines and oil refineries and landfills and trash incinerators to their neighborhoods, which in turn attracts higher rates of cancer and birth defects.

But I can’t help visualizing how each aluminum can or plastic bottle I hold in my hand connects me to those toxic mines and factories. I can’t bear to make an unnecessary contribution to those chemical-leaching landfills. And the clearcut forest I once saw haunts me whenever I even think about throwing away a piece of paper.

Of course, solid waste concerns are environmentally passé. The eco-chic are now into conserving energy instead, because of the melting icecaps and extreme weather caused by burning fossil fuels. I would follow their lead if I could just forget the inconvenient truth that recycled materials save huge amounts of energy in manufacturing.

But even the climate crisis doesn’t affect me directly here in the Eternal Present – the only moment there is – as I hesitate with my hand extended toward the nearest handy trash can. Why can’t I just let go?

I’m hoping someone out there can help. Please share in the Comments your favorite justification for tossing recyclables into the trash. Here are a few losers I’ve already tried:

  1. It’s only one little scrap of paper in a giant mountain of garbage . . .
  2. I’m only one little person on a crowded planet. My personal impact can’t possibly matter . . .
  3. It’s a relatively minor planet anyway . . .
  4. Tossing something recyclable in the trash only takes a second, if I stay focused on a grand enough distraction . . . like last night’s game. On to the next distraction!
  5. Okay, just this once. (This actually worked – but only once.)
  6. My time is too valuable to make a moral issue out of trash!
  7. I’ll get around to it when I get a chance to study the issues.
  8. The environment is not my issue.
  9. The eco-emergency has nothing to do with me – I’m apolitical.
  10. Recycling is so materialistic. I’m too spiritual for that!
  11. Recycling – wasn’t that popular back in the Seventies?
  12. I’m not an activist. I have complete faith in the activists of the world to pick up my slack.
  13. Other people’s cancers and birth defects are not my problem. Want to hear about my problems?
  14. I wasn’t raised that way. If waste and pollution were good enough for Ma and Pa, they’re good enough for me.
  15. I’m too old and set in my ways to care about the kids or their future.
  16. Everybody knows it isn’t cool to care. What if someone sees me acting like some naive idealist?
  17. Self-indulgence is a way of life I am committed to. It’s an integrity thing.
  18. My habits are part of my identity. Next you’ll want me to give up smoking!
  19. Media exposés have revealed that plastic recycling is a scam. It’s such a relief to go on buying plastic guilt-free!
  20. Obviously that lets me off the hook for paper, glass, and aluminum too.
  21. I’m just a normal, average person. How can I understand the difference between plastic and aluminum?
  22. Surely such an exceptional person as myself can be an exception to the mere laws of nature!
  23. “Saving the Earth” is a hippie / liberal / white / bourgeois / middle-class thing.
  24. Laying waste to the planet is a proud patriotic tradition in the U.S. of A.!
  25. Recycling at home is a personal choice. But here at work, we need to cut costs.
  26. The government will take care of the environment. That’s why we pay taxes.
  27. I have no effect on my environment. My environment has no effect on me.
  28. Recycling is not enough to fix the world. So why bother?
  29. The Space People (the Apocalypse, the Revolution, the Collapse of Civilization) will be here soon to solve all our problems.
  30. Proud to do my part for human extinction!
  31. It’s too late. The world is doomed. Let’s party!

Somewhere out there, shimmering like the Holy Grail through the ozone haze, the perfect rationalization awaits. Won’t someone please let me in on the secret before I do something irrational, like getting emotionally involved with an entire planet?

Wing’s original stickers available at




















































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