By ◆ Juppie on Sunday, September 26, 2010 @ 9:23 AM

There's lots of things on this planet that are unique to it. The most obvious one is, of course, life, for as far as we know, Earth is the only place with living things. But having all this life also has its downside.

Like all the waste.

I'm sure you've seen some of it. Dog poop left next to sidewalks because dog owners don't bother to pick it up. And most certainly your own waste in the toilet. (I know it's disgusting to talk about that, so I won't dwell on it.)

And not just the sort of waste that animals naturally have to get rid of. Us humans have really changed. We used to live as hunter-gatherers. Then we figured out that we could use plants to our advantage by planting them on purpose and raising them until we could harvest them. Eventually we didn't have to think about survival all the time, so we were able to explore other things that interested us. We drew and painted, we sang songs and made instruments, we came up with religions and we tried to treat diseases and we came up with all sorts of inventions to speed things up. We wanted more time to ourselves. We came up with the printing press so people wouldn't have to painstakingly copy text. We hitched carriages to horses, and then we came up with cars, trains, and planes. We turned from writing letters to calling each other on the phone to emailing, and nowadays many people send text messages.

Faster, faster, faster. It's all getting too fast now, I think. I feel like there's never enough time. Everything is rushing on by. I used to be such a big fan of Pokemon. I used to await every new game eagerly, counting down the months and weeks and days. Now I don't even know about the most recent starter Pokemon. I got caught up in other things and didn't have the time to keep up with Pokemon anymore. I guess I gave up. Sometimes if I have the free time I'll pick up an older Pokemon game like Pokemon LeafGreen (which is for the Gameboy Advance. Do you remember when that was the main handheld for Nintendo, back before the DS came out?). But other than that, my old devotion for Pokemon seems to have died. It's only ever stirred up again when I see something on the Internet that makes me remember those good old days.

And since we always keep replacing our older things with newer stuff, the old things get forgotten. We leave them to collect dust in our houses (I am very guilty of that) or we throw them out. All of it really does pile up. We've got so much of it in some places that you'll see nothing but trash. The Earth is big. But don't forget that there are many, many people, too. And all those things we threw away and gave up on have to go somewhere. They stay right here on this planet. They don't magically wink out of existence, and it's not like we send all our trash into Outer Space where we can forget about it.

You don't have to become a vegetarian or never buy anything ever again. Just be a little mindful about what you do. If you see some trash on the ground or if you have some of your own, throw it away so it won't somehow get into a river and get eaten by a whale who will later end up washed up on the beach with a bunch of plastic bags inside it. If you see something and suddenly feel an urge to buy it, think for a moment whether it's something you'll treasure forever or if it's something you'll buy and never touch again. (I used to be pretty spendthrift, but nowadays I hardly buy anything. But that's mostly because I want to save money now so I can retire earlier) If you're taking a shower, even if it's cold and you don't want to get out, be a little braver and step out. (This is definitely something I need to work on.) And if drink bottled water, switch to a reusable one. I'm doing that myself in the near future.

If you have some time to spare on a weekend, don't just sit in front of your computer screen and go on the Internet, which is what I'm doing at the moment. When next September rolls around, you might want to consider taking part in cleaning up a creek or beach or some other waterway (I did that just the other day, for a school project, and thought it wasn't bad. At least it's fun to get to hold one of those trash grabber things). You'll get some fresh air and find some rather interesting garbage lying around. Just do a little something...To save the world, or to feel good about yourself, or because seeing waste is such an eyesore, or, as I would say, because you're alive and you ought to do more than just take up space. I've been doing that for all these years. But at least I can still salvage the future.

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