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Disillusionment abounds


Maybe it’s being out and about in the garden, or maybe it’s just lingering Earth Day good vibes, but I’ve been thinking lately about my 7th grade science classes and the promise of a brighter future. 7th grade was a good long while ago (almost 20 years ago, blegh), so I think that some of the things we talked about and learned about should have come to pass by now. Where is my jetpack?!!

Seriously though, in the science classes for middle school, we talked about hydrothermal vents, mining the ocean for rare metal nodules, genetically engineered crops, geothermal heating and cooling, a complete cradle-to-cradle manufacturing system, and fish. Or astronomy. I’m pretty sure there was a satellite in there somewhere. Anyway, we covered a lot of ground and most of it pointed towards a brighter future. We were well on our way to solving global warming, migrating to renewable energy sources (no small feat in what was within a stone’s throw of coal country) and becoming good stewards of the Earth. It helped make me into the general science geek that I am today.

Now I’ve lived places where people shouted at you for tossing a can in the trash; I’ve lived places where the collected recyclables were just trucked somewhere else to be trashed; I’ve lived places where they think there’s something wrong with you if you recycle. Lately I’ve just been wondering where all of that enthusiasm went. And maybe the progress that was being made was a little overstated back then. To be fair, we can have some of those things, like the geothermal heating, but it’s not very widespread. And even though the fish was more sarcasm, the truth is that there are fewer of those. So the good stewardship part seems to be missing as well. It’s kind of a bummer, really. 

My graduate advisor told me when I started that I couldn’t save the world. Well, duh. But come on, people, it’s been almost twenty years. I’d hoped for a bit more progress. It feels like we’re just barely keeping our heads above water.

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