As advertised B)
I wish the picture above was a Photoshopped or staged image. But, sadly, it is not. Sadly, it is what you will find simply walking up too many beaches in too many parts of the world, as long as you have your eyes open.
There is no doubt. We are facing a self-made apocalypse. This seemingly dour realization has not come easily to me, but it is the undeniable conclusion based on honest research and observation. I write not about impending nuclear conflicts, but rather the much more mundane, the much more common, and much more individually avoidable: waste.
There are entire dissertations to be written on a topic this broad, so I’ll instead focus on my own experience picking up trash on a warm but rainy February Sunday afternoon at my local beach in Long Island, NY. Anyone can do it. Most people probably should. And you can even bring an adorable pup with you like I did. As with most things worth doing in life, why not have fun while your at it?
Our beach does have an annual clean up, but when you consider that this well meaning event comprises only 1/365 days of the year, you start to realize as I did that such an effort is far from enough in the larger scheme of things. The other 364 days is plenty of time for plastics to degrade into the sand and then water, poisoning the world rather than simply vanishing into it. Some pieces will even become buried where they’ll continue to decay or be eventually washed out to sea.
Combing the beach with my happy companion, we stumbled across all manner of objects that have no place in any environment, let alone a marine one. Some were more puzzling as to how in the hell they got there, like shotgun shell casings, auto parts, and balloon carcasses. But others were simply dismaying to see, like beer cans, coffee cups, and more bottle caps than I could count. The latter most of these items are frustrating to find because they seem so easy to recycle, or even just put in the trash as an absolute worse case scenario. Yet there they lay, half-buried and already blending in with the rocks around them.
Much of the refuse seemed to collect in the dunes or among the tide lines of tangled seaweed and beach grass. Within these tufts were all manner of tinier objects, and these perhaps were the most depressing of all, such as already worn Styrofoam that crumbled when I went to pluck it out, blowing off in the wind before I could snatch the little bits out of the air.
Even smaller pieces, some as small as the tiniest pebbles or even grains of sand, were an even more disturbing sight. For these bits it was too late to really even tell them apart from what should be there. They were now a part of the landscape.
My point isn’t to lecture here from some sort of moral high ground. I’m just as guilty as anyone else of not being the most efficient and sustainable consumer. But it seems that there’s plenty of little things that we can all do in our lives, and so if this is just a first step, then I reckon it’s a damn good one.
But we need to try harder as a species if we’re going to make it through this current century relatively intact, and beyond. Whatever your beliefs, the truth is irrefutable: there’s no reason for any of us – or our society – to exist, to continue. It is up to us to maintain our planet, and by extension, society. This isn’t to suggest turning your life on its head and becoming an 100% efficient woodland hippie, but learn what you can, do what you can, and share that voice with others. There are certainly others who are much more knowledgeable on these issues than I am (see here for example), and so I implore you to do the research yourself. It will certainly confirm your observations the next time you do take a stroll on the beach.
For me, I’m looking forward to me and the doggo’s next beach cleaning adventure. Again, it’s just a start, but all good things need one.
But the fact remains: too long have we ignored what we waste. It’s time to open our eyes. Let’s unpocalypse this situation.
Yup. That’s a real picture, of a real car, floating around real Earth! But do we really expect anything less from SpaceX’s founder and CEO Elon Musk? Is he really a super hero? A super villian? Or just a dude who gets awesome stuff done? Join us in our latest episode where we watch the maiden launch of SpaceX’s revolutionary Falcon Heavy rocket (the biggest since the moon rockets!).
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Me: “Don’t you talk to any of your other professors?”
Student: “No, they’re weird.”
Me: “Aren’t I weird?”
Student: “No, you’re good weird.”
Don’t let this savvy/smart sounding title fool you – I hardly consider myself to be either ideal here, but even an average Joe finds the right answer once in awhile. And in my experience, it can certainly help to recognize the merit of both concepts, those being that of ‘smarts’ and ‘savviness’ respectively.
Last week I found myself at Craft – a charming little local craft beer store – sampling some very fine brews. On the counter sat a clear glass jar, filled to the sealed top with what else but fresh, Earthy-green hops.
Hops are a vital ingredient in many a-manner of brews, specifically the now wildly popular IPAs (Indian Pale Ales). There’s quite a long history and culture surrounding when and why hops were introduced to the brewing process – as well as how that process has evolved over the centuries. But perhaps I’ll save that chronicle for another post or several. The point is that these green little flower buds are indeed a vital element within the brewing world, often noted for the distinctly bitter and or citrusy zeal they can impart upon any given drink.
Next to the hop jar was another jar with white paper slips inside. The beertender explained the contest: simply guess how many hops were in the larger container. There was some discussion about what the number might be – and many guesses – but as these answers were scribbled down, I continued to drink, and think: what equation might work to make a close guesstimate?
I say guesstimate because I’m not confident enough in my mathematical skills to call it anything else. In fact, I’m so unconfident that I don’t even call what I do ‘math’, but rather ‘maff’, which is, according to the self-dictionary inside my head: “Joe’s method of numerical processing rooted in subjoetivity rather than in consistent mathematical modes of calculation.”
This is not to say that I don’t use actual tried-and-true formulas, but rather that I don’t trust that they’re always the right ones, or that I carry them through correctly, resulting in my need to substitute some elements of any given mathematical process whenever I feel the need to adjust an equation by thinking, eh, seems closer to what’s probably right by adding or subtracting ________ instead.
To give some further context, I remember talking to my teacher after my 10th grade state math exam. I was rightfully nervous as to whether or not I passed. “I’ve gotta say,” she began, raising an eyebrow. “This is probably the most interesting test I’ve ever seen.”
“Is that…good?” I asked, brows equally uneven.
“Well, you passed,” she said to my exhaling relief, and then continued, “’cause you got enough of the answers right, even though you used all the wrong formulas.”
“Yeah, mostly. But you showed your work too, so, two out of three still counts as passing. I’m more impressed how you somehow got enough answers right.”
I shrugged. “I guess they just seemed right.”
This ‘lesson’ stuck with me through the rest of high school, then college, and all the way more than a decade later to this craft beer store counter with its hop jar. I knew enough to try to calculate its volume. π r2, or something, right? I used my phone – which I know from the model type to be about 7 and 1/2 inches long – to approximate the radius, and height. Ah! That was the other part of the equation! Volume = π r2h
Subtracting a few dozen for the slightly narrower neck of the jar, I came up with a solid sounding number: 580. But staring at the thumb-sized pieces I realized a problem: solid, or rather, full, which the inside of this vessel was far from. Each hop’s similar yet still unique shape created far too many gaps among them to total 580. It was time to adjust my calculation. It was time for maff.
A “smarter” guesser might have been able to employ an equation among a small sample set(s) of hops to calculate the total volume of space in-between said set(s) and then just multiply that by the total sets to come up with a number of units to subtract from the original total. This explanatory sentence alone, however, was a struggle enough for me to write – and even then doesn’t seem entirely right – and so creating an actual calculation along these lines was far from a practical option. Instead, I dug back into my 10th grade math skill sets, tilted my head in study of the jar, took another sip, and thought: eh, fifty fewer should do the trick.
My final tally came out to 530. I was the closest without going over by three hops.
Now that’s some savvy maff for you.
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