Yesterday I learned that the Environment wanted to have a word with me. How many times had I heard that before. When I jogged over to see him in my organic jump-suit, I found he had withdrawn into his Tabernacle, so I had a word instead with his deputy, Ecology. Ecology told me the Environment was vexed with me again. What had I done now, I asked, once more to merit his wrath? Where had I gone wrong? Last week I had discarded shelves of canned pet food when told they might contain remains of wild mustangs, porpoises, whales or whooping cranes. For months I had packed my organic lunches in a metal lunch box instead of brown bag. No longer did I use my electric toothbrush during peak-load hours, thus to discourage construction of nuclear facilities. Now I used only biodegradable dental floss and flushed my brick-filled toilet but twice a day. I no longer used tinted toilet paper. Each week, heavily laden, I led forced marches of neighbors to the distant recycling center. I had given up my job at the nearby GM assembly plant and had told the manager why. I had my vasectomy last month. I would start my nightsoil compost heap the very next Monday. Through frquent letters, I was forcing my congressman to place love over lobbies, and my new buying habits were convincing industry that a dead planet was bad for business. In my small way I had revised my living activities so as to reclaim the planet for the Environment. I asked Ecology, what more?
The Environment, he replied, was having second thoughts about me. I was a backslider. The Environment knew I was not returning my used plastic bags to the bakery and was thus still depleting his fossil fuels. I had not removed the metal rings and foil from my nonreturnable bottles before recycling. I was mistakenly using paper cups and plants to conserve dish water when I knew full well that trees came first. My detergents had turned the Pacific into a swampy; my deodorant had slashed a hole in the ozone layer. The Environment, Ecology said, was burdened by my several sins and iniquities. I was a major site of overconsumption, waste and pollution.
What more does the Environment want of me? I asked. What more can I do to show my fealty? I swat flies with flyswatters. I grind my fleas between my fingernails. I blow my nose in scraps of old cloth. I no longer shower. I have cancelled my subscriptions to all slick magazines. I jog to the welfare office to pick up my checks. I have renounced pesticides. I use ground hot pepper spray and tweezers to remove hornworms from my tomatoes. I reject picture-perfect but environmentally dangerous fruits in favor of wizened but safe organic crops.
Ecology observed that I was a burden on the Environment nonetheless. My extensive correspondence with lawmakers on the subject of forest conservation I willfully mailed in envelopes instead of folding, sealing and addressed the recycled sheets as instructed. My cross-country jogging done in lieu of my abandoned driving now endangered plants. For that matter, when did I plan to stop eating plants altogether? Did I not consider wearing my greatcoat, muffler and earmuffs indoors to conserve natural gas? Did I not know that all forms of pollution and overuse now were traced to My very existence ?
What, pray, I asked Ecology, am I not, too, a link in the Chain of Being? Not one of the facets of the delicate system of systems? Not one of the interconnections in the great web of the Environment?
Ecology smiled and disappeared into the Tabernacle. When he finally came out he was not smilling. The Environment, he said, had a question by way of answering my questions.
Does "population explosion" mean somebody else? Somewhere else? Ecology looked at me directly as he spoke. The Enironment, he said, now believed there was one too many of me.