“I’m Only One Person”

This has been on my mind for a while, but recently it seems to have come to the forefront. Yep, you guessed it; another week when what I thought I was going to write was completely blown away by what decided it wanted to be written. I think I may just have to throw my plan out the window, ya know?

Anyway, on to the topic. This came up largely due to my determination to recycle as much as I possibly can. Our garbage only needs to be pulled to the curb about once every two weeks, but we’re seriously considering getting another recycle bin, as what we have doesn’t seem to keep up with what we’re committing to be reused.

I do not, and will not, purchase water bottles, or a water delivery service. Brita pitcher and Camelbak and Healthy Human are your friends, people! Yes, you gotta wash’em, but seriously, is that that big a deal? I even went a step further, though. No, not getting rid of toilet paper — just eww — but I did get rid of paper towels and disposable napkins in our household. I additionally tossed out or gave away any of the wipes that’re used to clean surfaces. I don’t use disposable make-up remover pads, or any of that. I bought cloth napkins (can be washed and reused — yay!), and I use washcloths in the bathroom for my face cleaning. For overall cleaning, I use what I grew up using — old rags that are fallin’ apart but dang, they surely do work well, and again, they can be washed. You don’t want to know the turmoil that erupted in our house when I told the hubs that we weren’t going to be using paper towels for most stuff anymore. To say he was displeased by this loss of convenience is an understatement. However, he’s a good guy; I’ve learned to expect his displeasure when I spring changes on him, and he learns that it ain’t so bad as he thought it was.

Anyway. Back to the topic at hand. So, I’m a recycle queen … sorta. Localized recycle queen, perhaps. I have friends over so I can feed them (I’m also a from-scratch cook and I absolutely love feeding loved ones!). One friend, we’ll call her A, commented about not knowing if she should use the cloth napkins as she didn’t want to mess them up. I shrugged, said “They can be washed,” and didn’t think anything of it. A little later someone else said something, and I responded that I was doing as much as I could to keep trash out of landfills and out of the ocean. A responded with “You know, I’ve thought about that, but I’m just one person, and I don’t think my contribution is gonna make that much difference.”

To say I was blown away by this is an understatement; you see, A is extremely leftist, and I’d have thought she’d be riding the recycle bandwagon, too. But even more than that was the sense that, if most of our society views things this way about recycling, what else do they view that way?

So let’s play a game, shall we? Let’s imagine that each one of us produces 4.4 pounds of waste per day (for the source, clicky here). Now to put that in perspective, an average-sized bag of sugar weighs five pounds. So, each human, each day, is producing and throwing away just under that amount of waste. That adds up to about 132 pounds of garbage per month, or 1,606 pounds of garbage, every single year. Now, to take this game a bit further, let’s assume a conservative average lifespan of 50 years. That adds up to 80,300 pounds of garbage, per person, per 50-year lifespan. That is just over 40 tons; to give you a visual, that means that one 18-wheeler, fully loaded and including the cab, is going to be the size of the garbage produced by each American, each and every single day.

Conversely, of that 4.4 pounds of garbage, only 1.51 pounds, per day, gets recycled. So, back to the mathing:

  • 1.51 pounds recycled per month = 45.3 pounds recycled per month
  • 1.51 pounds recycled per year = 551.15 pounds recycled per year
  • 1.51 pounds recycled over 50 years = 27,557.5 pounds recycled per lifespan
  • 80,300 – 27,557.5 = 52,442.5 pounds of garbage still getting thrown in landfills and wherever else someone thinks it’s convenient to throw it, per person, per lifetime

So the lifetime current average for recycling is 27.5k pounds, while throw-away garbage is around 52,742.5 pounds, or just over 1/3 of that 18-wheeler I mentioned. The current population in the United States, as of 15 October 2018 (click me!) is 327,426,301 people. This adds up to 1,440,675,724.4 pounds (yes, that first number is in the BILLIONS place) of garbage produced, every single day. Seriously, I can’t even fathom anything that big. To put that in perspective, an Airbus A380, currently the world’s largest passenger jet, weighs in at just over 1.1 million pounds. To really get a good visual, it would take 1,000 of these airplanes to equal the amount of waste produced in America per day.

Now, in light of that? A was absolutely correct. I, as one person, can’t even begin to make a dent in that amount. Really, what’s my paltry little amount gonna do? However, I also realized when I began this recycling venture that it didn’t matter to me what everyone else did; I could and would limit the amount of garbage I provided to greedy landfills and dumping grounds in the oceans. I would choose to be responsible for limiting my addition to that amount.

You know, I just gotta stop here a moment and ask people — where the heck do you really think it all goes? Seriously. Furthermore, for all of you who don’t want the landfills in your precious neighborhoods — how much do you recycle to eliminate this necessity?

Anyway. The point of all the above is to open eyes to reality, not to talk about recycling. You see, we do all think “I’m only one person,” and we do all find it futile to enact a lasting lifestyle change because it’s inconvenient, and it doesn’t matter anyway because no one else is doing it. But just think a moment, seriously. If we just got our recycling up to 50% per day, not around 34%, we’d be making an impact. If we got it up even higher, it would be more of an impact. Duh, obvious, right?

So let’s turn that thinking around a bit to some other issues. I mean, let’s look at the current political turmoil. Our country is under the thumb of a two-party system that has a lot of noisy people yelling and carrying on about the rightness of their party, and the absolute stupidity and lack of morals of the other party. But I did some more research, and here’s what I’ve discovered:

  • Current U.S. population is around 327,426,301 people
  • Of those 327 million or so people, approximately 2,711,000 people work for the Federal Government; these are separate from members of the Executive Branch
  • The Executive Branch of our government employs a little over 4 million people, including Active Duty Military Personnel
  • Combined, our Federal Government is comprised of about 6,711,000 people; this is 2.04% of our current population

All of this information can be found on Google; there are variations in data, and sometimes trying to get good information from multiple sources is hair-raising at best. I invite you to do your own research.

Anyway. Why did I make this point?

Because I’m so tired of all of us feeling helpless. I’m so tired of all the noisy people, of either side, screaming and shouting and calling names and carrying on as though the end of the world would arrive without their input. I’m further sick unto death of the division that’s eating up our country. I’m old enough to remember when our political parties actually still pretended they were counter-balancing each other, rather than showing that politics has become nothing more now than favor-mongering. Each politician gives something up to gain something, and all the while they each continue to use words and commit to actions that enhance, rather than soothe, the divisiveness that’s ripping our country apart. Disagree with me? Honestly, I’d dearly love to hear something to convince me that this isn’t true!

So, what are the answers? I don’t know, actually. I do know that our two-party system is failing. I do know that people are screaming for congressional limits. I do know that people are tired of watching our educational systems get trammeled in the name of pinching pennies. I do know that we’re tired of working harder for less money; of having to downsize because the house payment we used to be able to make, we can’t anymore. I know that our entire governmental system has become bloated, and with that bloat, it has become nearly ineffective at doing anything other than keeping itself in business.

I do also know that the majority of the United States public are quiet; they’re not the ones who have screaming matches on Facebook with their peers. They’re not the ones who march in protest. They’re not the ones who look at others and think “I’m better than you because I belong to the ‘correct’ party.” Rather, they’re the ones who march back and forth to and from work, every day, so they can have a home and food on the table for themselves and their families. They are the ones who quietly go about doing good as they can, helping out friends, neighbors, their community. They’re the ones who duck under the radar, making sure their kids are fed, reasonably well-behaved and educated, and reasonably well-focused on their communities.

These aren’t the people we all hear about, we all read about. These are, if you will, the salt-of-the-earth people, the ones who make our country great, because they keep working, they keep purchasing what they need, boosting our economy. They keep paying their taxes. Are they happy? They’re people, lol! Some are, some aren’t. Some would love to see change, some are happy with their little worlds. But each of them, if tasked with figuring out how to “fix our country,” to bring back the values that it was built on — you know, a government of the people, by the people, for the people — would probably do the same thing I do; shake their heads, roll their eyes, and exclaim “Holy cow, I don’t even know where to start!”

Or, they might say what A said: “I’m only one person. What difference will my efforts make?”

And this is the crux of the entire ramble you’ve just (hopefully) waded through.

We, individually, are only one person. Individually, we cannot effect change on a societal level, only a local (very local) level. Individually we cannot stand against any form of governmental corruption. Individually, we cannot produce the common-sense state of government that is required in order to keep us from imploding.

Collectively, however? Collectively, to begin with, we outnumber those who’re currently sitting in those positions of power; and we have the power of our vote. We can, at the community level, come together and start asking for common-sense approaches to the issues that currently are so very divisive. As communities, we can hold our elected representatives accountable for their actions. As communities, we can enact change on a societal level that can improve the lives of every single American. We can stop hunger, we can stop rampant spending, we can bring jobs and job satisfaction back to our shores. We can, in fact, do anything we want to — if we act collectively. If each and every one of us “quiet ones” steps up and assumes responsibility for our own futures and, more importantly, for the futures of our children.

Honestly, people. Reread the history of our country. We were founded not as a democracy, but as a republic. Why? Because our founding fathers knew that “popular votes” could be swayed by rhetoric, and so they put systems in place to keep that from happening. In fact, as it was originally envisioned, our country was not intended to be “ruled” by parties at all; the founding fathers did not want party systems, as they knew where that could ultimately lead. Where it has led, and where we are now; parties who exist solely to keep themselves in existence, and in power, and wreck the systems that were put in place for our benefit, not theirs.

This isn’t a call for revolution, per se. It is rather a call to wake up. Stand up, shake the sleep outta your body, and start looking around. Ask yourself; whether it’s about recycling, or about our current state of living — is this what you really want your children to grow up with? Is this the legacy we believe we should leave our children, just because it’s inconvenient to get involved?

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