Pope Francis appears to have grown deeply concerned about the volume of plastic trash floating in our seas. Interestingly, his inner garbage-lookout has begun crying, “Trash ho!” at just the moment when credible rumors have surfaced that a homosexual clique within the Vatican has been secretly saluting the pedophile Jolly Roger Seems like a very convenient time to be looking starboard instead of larboard—and the mainstream news media are, of course, sailors first-class at changing screens. Ever eager to see Francis carry on carrying on about manmade climate change and the diabolical evil of privately owning a means of self-defense, talking heads everywhere have buried Archbishop Vigano’s charges of child-molesting complicity in empty liter-bottles of Coke and shredded Little Debbie packaging. Utopia’s pope preaches their gospel almost as if they were sharing teleprompters. “Who am I to judge?” opines the Chief Pontiff on the lump-of-flesh removal question… but his view of Parkland High School’s atrocity leaves the holster as quick as a sixgun in a spaghetti western.
And so it goes on, even in the practice of faith: the endless tennis match between the World Propaganda Machine and unsavory fact.
I for one am willing to take my eye off the ball completely this morning. Let us accept that trash on the tides is a more urgent problem than homosexual seduction (a.k.a. statutory rape) of minors in the sanctuary. After all, the Green Party has already gained the ascendancy over public school curricula in Germany and is busily teaching little girls and boys whose voices are years from lowering how to conduct sexual experiments. Maybe Francis’s priests were just helping a few adolescents with their homework.
So back to the trash issue (I mean, plastic trash): may we ponder this one for a moment? What’s the suggested solution? Massive plastic roundups conducted by a kind of Green Coast Guard synchronized with a war on plastic products such as Governor Jerry Brown’s criminalization of straws? And what, may I ask, is to be done with all the rounded-up plastic? Do we burn it, thus infusing a major new catalyst into the engine driving Global Warming (according to His Eminence et al.)? Or do we bury it—and there’s a lot of it, remember—thus further destabilizing the Earth’s crust and exacerbating the global epidemic of sinkholes? (Would you believe, by the way, that southeastern New Mexico, perhaps the nation’s most favored site for dumping nuclear waste, also ranks near the top of the list for sinkhole activity? Still think your government is good at planning these things out?)
I’ve been wondering for several months now (when I wasn’t wrestling with how to extract gender allusion from pronouns or how to eliminate “race whistles” from animal names)… why should we do anything more with the ocean’s drifting islands of plastic than encourage their formation and “sculpt” them? Islands are useful. Among other things, an island would be invincible as land-bound coastal cities succumb to Al Gore Armageddon. It could also evade hurricanes like Katrina, if it is mobile: this is a point made in earnest by engineers who have had island-communities on the drawing board for years. The basis of those designs, to be sure, was not old bottles of Jiff and forlorn ring-nets once holding six-packs of Coors together… but who’s going to notice that Plastopolis is floating on garbage bags rather than sleek pontoons? And the pontoons might always rupture—but garbage bags, we have good assurance, are forever.
Or if the feeling is that encouraging wayfarer island-towns would only disseminate civilization’s toxicity more thoroughly around the globe… then why not populate the islands with verdant forests? If one component of Climate Change is the depletion of the rainforest, then why not multiply these artificial islands so as to restore the planet’s green cloak in some measure?
We’re stuck in and with a high-tech world. I don’t like it, personally, and I’ve done more to resist capture than most people I know… but the reality of pollution will not be dispelled with the wave of a magic wand (or by papal edict, or even by a Jerry Brown initiative). Indeed, those who would most aggressively repress the commercial and industrial activity responsible for forming our postmodern cesspool are situated (as I notice again and again) at points well beyond the real stench and fully insulated against the lean times sure to follow repression. Francis and Governor Brown will have a running shower with plenty of hot water, though the rest of the world be sponging off from muddy goat tracks.
We will not solve any environmental problem by banning entire industries and cultural habits. As I wrote a while back of my own struggles on a would-be farm, you can’t defeat water by bullying it into reversing its course: you can only channel it into less destructive directions. The trash in our oceans is a problem… so let us imagine ways to transform trash into life-nourishing productivity. We who created it surely have the ingenuity to steer its life cycle’s last stages down a more benign path.
In contrast, this crusading (or, if you prefer, jihadist) zeal to annihilate the enemy—to leave his foundations smoking (in stratosphere-friendly gasses) and his chattel eviscerated—is an insane pantomime intended to convince us, and everyone within earshot, of our own high virtue. The cost of such virtue is usually the magnification of the original problem to catastrophic proportions; and, of course, it isn’t really virtue at all, but the mortal sin of vain pride. We kill our souls as we kill our planet.
One would think that the Catholic pope, even an example of as dubious a pedigree as Francis, would recognize this. But he is the world’s first Twitter Pope. Grit doesn’t find its way into his shoes because they never touch real earth. His visions, and ours, float and drift like the leavings of a child’s Christmas presents… or like Swift’s floating island of air-headed speculators, the Laputans. With guiding ideas like this, who needs a Styrofoam garbage invasion?