Okay, so now we’re in the middle of a pandemic.
But not to worry, your friendly little enviro-nerd is here to keep her eye on things for you while you obsessively watch Cuomo’s briefings, try to get your mom to figure out the HouseParty app, or just stress-eat yourself into oblivion. Or, goddess forbid, deal with the coronavirus itself.
In fact, Cuomo just started today’s presser; I’ll be back in a bit.
So. It’s the 50th anniversary of EARTH DAY. Where is everybody? I’m quarantino’ed in my new little town upstate (see previous post for deets on that), after I hightailed it out of NYC — unfortunately leaving many of my belongings behind, including most of my clothes and a partial box of protective masks that could be ten years old, but I’d take ’em right about now.
Btw, I just Googled “protective masks” + “shopping” to show you the type of masks they were, and this pleather BDSM number came up. I mean, it’s cute, but it’s the exact opposite of what I need right now.
Anyways, should environmentalists say “We told you so,” or should we just head straight to the market for wine? I mean groceries.
Polar bears be like, “How do you like it?”
Last month, before shit got real, we were joking that it was the Zombie Apocalypse out there. (Find my NYC cab driver’s definition of the apocalypse here.) Before the ad agency where I freelance went remote, this is how the company cafeteria responded to the budding pandemic:
It’s an enviro-nerd’s nightmare.
And then things got really bad: celebrities started posting videos of washing their hands for 20 seconds . . . WITH THE WATER RUNNING. (I’m looking at you, Arnold Schwarzenegger and your miniature horse and tiny donkey, you weirdo.) My little brain nearly blew a fuse.
I’m being silly in a very serious situation, I know. Not only do I sometimes openly weep when reading my NYC friends’ FB posts about having the hellish COVID-19, or who we’ve lost to the virus, or even worse stuff (I actually have not one but TWO friends with parents who recently entered hospice, and they cannot go be with them. I cannot IMAGINE, after going through my dad’s hospice recently.)
MEANWHILE, this has been both a blessing and a curse for environmental issues. From the plastic bag ban being put on hold, to President Who’sie-Whats rolling back auto emission standards — OMG. There are also some silver linings to the stay-at-home orders, which I’ll try to pepper in. Hang in there.
To start, even in early March, before the world was on lockdown, Starbucks stopped filling people’s personal coffee holder thingies. Okay, I get that. But please let it be temporary.
I was still finding great joy in watching people — of all stripes — in the local supermarket parking lots with their reusable totes. Note that I do not live in Woodstock, where people practically live in reusable totes (or is that just a tie-dyed t-shirt? JK, Woodstock friends.) I (now) live in a regular small town on the other side of the river.
I love that this is happening, and that people are DOING it! When I was at Pricechopper last week, the cashier did say I’d have to put my groceries into my nylon bag myself, which I was happy to do. I told her I was glad they haven’t gone back to single-use plastic bags, and she said that in Massachusetts they have, even though they instated the ban before us. Nooooo!!! And now rumor has it that single-use plastic has been spotted here in New York as well. (That’s the sound of my heart being broken.)
Seriously, reusing bags (and other stuff) is uber-green — it saves energy and resources, manufacturing and shipping, and spares landfills and oceans. It’s called a “circular economy” — everything stays in the system.
And the idea that “new” stuff is more sanitary isn’t really true. Do you know where your Poland Springs bottle has been? No. Your own washable thermos-y majigger? Yes.
People. Keep using reusables. You’re doing great.
Want a quick silver lining to the pandemic? Air pollution is down. People in New Delhi are taking selfies against the blue sky; urban Chinese folks are seeing the stars for the first time in years; and apparently Californians can see Catalina Island from the Hollywood sign — as a native Angelena (born in Burbank), I’m sorry to be missing that.
And since air pollution results in asthma, COPD and even heart disease, which in turn make us more vulnerable to COVID-19 (asthmatic here), it’s gotta be good news, right?
Welllll, our fearless leader is MAKING POLLUTION GREAT AGAIN by rolling back Obama’s fuel efficiency standards — i.e., climate-warming tailpipe pollution — a few weeks ago. Right in the middle of a pandemic. HAPPY EARTH DAY, everybody!!
But then auto makers pledged that Trump can go f@#k himself — they’re going to raise their standards anyway. They actually WANT policy and an infrastructure that supports a transformation to net-zero emissions.
Our Madman in Charge says that aggressive rollbacks like this will help an economy slammed by the pandemic, but the dudes who support it are guys like POTUS crony Thomas J. Pyle, the president of the Institute for Energy Research, a nice-sounding organization that actually supports — get this — the use of fossil fuels. What the . . . ??
So . . . the EPA is basically undoing the government’s biggest effort to combat climate change, and we regular people are gonna have to spend more money on gas, thanks to the “relaxed” MPG in our vehicles.
BTW, I say “we,” even though I don’t have a car yet. When I got up here last month, I rented a “cheap” car (which is now costing me a thousand dollars a month — arrrggghhhh), because I’m all by my lonesome in my new place, with most of my furniture, two pairs of jeans, some sweatpants, and four forks I picked up at the Family Dollar store last month. I am exaggerating, but I’m looking forward to getting the rest of my things soon.
I started looking at Toyota Priuses (Prii?) to purchase. Used Priuses — I’m that serious about the circular economy. Plus my bank account is being bled dry at the moment, and my IRA is in the toilet. But now test-driving a used car feels like walking into a Queens E.R. without a mask; plus I’d have to get a mechanic to look at it, and go to the DMV . . . And even weeks ago, the guy at the dealership said NOBODY has sanitary wipes except the preppers*.
*(the stockpilers who are having their own “I told you so” moment)
Now, apparently, we don’t know yet if the COVID-19 pandemic is linked to climate change — or climate crisis, as the case may be. From my studies at Columbia, I do know this:
When populations are high — above the capacity of the environment to support them — processes go into action to reverse population growth and restore the population to a level that is in balance with the resources and conditions of the environment.”
-The Economy of Nature
BUT (silver lining): A couple of zoo pandas finally hooked up, after a decade of asking to be alone, for gosh sakes. And the Venice canals are running clear — the lack of cruise ships and motor boats have allowed the mud to settle. Big price to pay for Italians, though. The dolphin rumors have been debunked.
And frankly, if y’all weren’t eating animals all the time, maybe there wouldn’t have been a live animal market in Wuhan, and maybe the virus wouldn’t easily have crossed over to hoomans.
(Caveat: Although my friends will attest that I’m not currently vegan, I still cook vegan. And since these days I make EVERY GOL’DARN MEAL, I’m almost entirely plant-based right now. Even on #PieDayFriday, a pandemic tradition I’ve established for myself. The Quarantine 15 be damned.)
Ya know, this really is a practice run for when our environment goes bonkers. But while most people are tied up with COVID-19 Fever (sorry), it’s hard to think about the long term. Heck, it’s ALWAYS hard to think about the long term.
Cuomo likes to talk about the “New York Pause.” That it’s not just about isolating at home, but pausing to think about what we need to do going forward. To take this moment, reflect upon it, and find a better way. And I’m glad extended families like mine are in touch; everybody’s checking on everybody. It’s pretty nice.
We’ve said ‘we’re gonna do something’ about the environment, but we haven’t.” –Prince Andrew (Cuomo)
Before I go, I’d like to ask news outlets a favor: Can we put a moratorium on the phrase “these uncertain times”?
Also, “these turbulent times,” “these uncharted times,” “a time of anxiety,” “difficult times,” “an unprecedented moment,” “these increasingly worrying times,” or just plain ol’ “times like these.” Thanks.
And please stop sharing Kylie Jenner’s tips for staying home: “I do full spa days — take long baths, do masks, take care of my hair, take care of my skin.” I’m pretty sure she did the latter with a very sharp knife and a high-limit credit card.
I have a confession, though: I did buy an aerosol “temporary root concealer” spray. In a tiny can. I’m sorry! (It’s a game-changer, though.)
Shoot, I gotta run to the dump with my trash and recyclables before they close. HAPPY 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF EARTH DAY!!! Thank you, Rachel Carson. And may the EPA return to doing its job before dolphins swim in the Venice canals.
I’m sure many of you know that the great Americana singer/songwriter John Prine passed away last week from COVID-19. Or was it the week before? I’m losing all sense of time. In honor of Mr. Prine, I’ll end this post with a lovely video set to an old tune of his about the end of strip-mining in Kentucky. It seems fitting:
Be well, my friends.