Earning My Recycling Badge
I learned about pollution and the first vague whispers of global warming at about the same time that I grew my first pube. I was eight years old.
Precious fresh water, I learned, though it flowed limitlessly from our faucets at home, was scarce on this planet of ours.
“Have you ever been swimming in the ocean and gotten a gulp full of seawater?” my mom, Margie, asked us Girl Scouts sitting in a semicircle around her as she lectured us for our Recycling Badge. Her eyes were wide with a natural teaching instinct and a love of science. “Well,” she continued conspiratorially, “most of the planet’s water is like that. We are surrounded by oceans and they are very salty! There’s only 1% of this stuff on the planet, fresh water, that we can actually drink.”
The child mind is a hairy place. Ideas and fears, folktales, pop culture, religious imagery, things you learned from your mom who was leader of the Brownie troop, all form one information soup in the mind of an eight-year-old. When you’re learning every day, when your mind is expanding like the universe, it is just as unpredictable and combustible as outer space.
My mother spun the globe for us Brownies, her finger sinking with terrifying emphasis into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, “None of this is drinkable. So the water that comes out of our faucets, the water that comes from our reservoir: is very special. We have to protect it.”
An absurd dialogue began to form in my malleable subconscious between the destruction of the earth at the hands of humanity, and my body’s destruction at the hands of puberty.