When you were young, it was that day when you constructed something ghastly out of recycled plastics, cardboard towel rolls and coffee filters. Most art, between the ages of 4 and 11 , is based on the sound principle that nothing is made worse by the addition of googly eyes. This was no exception. Accordingly, you glued googly eyes to the towel rolls, painted them red, tossed some glitter in their general direction and called it a day.
When you brought it home to your parents, they expressed modified rapture. “Gee,” they said. “I thought we threw those coffee filters and towel rolls away, but I guess we can’t do that because they are Art now.”
So they stayed on top of your cabinet until one afternoon when you were away at college, when they suffered a mysterious accident.
You sang songs about the earth. “Recycle! Recycle! Recycle!” you sang, waving your hands in a circular motion. Most singing, between the ages of 4 and 11, is based on the slightly less sound principle that no song is made worse by the addition of arm motions. This was no exception.
You learned about the water cycle. You dressed up in plastic bags. Your teacher read you sobering stories about people who cast plastic Coca- Cola rings into the sea and killed off seabirds. You were duly chastened.
Once you became too old for crafts, your class trekked somewhere to Pick Up Trash. This you did with modified gusto, trying not to touch too much of it.
But move beyond those halycon days of community singing and crafts and Pick Up with capital letters, and where were you?
That was less clear.
It’s not that you littered. No one litters. It’s as gauche as not wearing a safety belt. It’s not that you didn’t separate the recycling. Of course you did. It was second nature. And sure, you used the squiggly bulbs. CVS offered no other options.
But you had other things to worry about.
Sure, the ice-caps were melting. But if you didn’t plug in your laptop, you’d never finish your Groundbreaking Memoir. Sure, the temperature was rising. But, dang it, you needed an iPhone 3G or you’d fall off the planet.
It’s not that we dislike the environment. It’s just that we prefer technology. Give me the great indoors every time. There is coffee there.
At first, in saying this, I thought I was simply succumbing to the typical millennial tendency for broad overstatements — write six sentences, substitute “we” for “I” and you’ve got a Groundbreaking Essay about Generational Tendencies.
But there’s a survey to back me up. Compared to prior generations, fewer millennials were working to clean up the environment — just 21 percent, compared with33 percent of Boomers. We are too accustomed to rivers that you cannot set on fire. We take them for granted.
It’s not that we don’t care about the environment, exactly. It’s just that we are not Actively Doing Something About It. Besides, you know, recycling. But everyone does that.
Are we apathetic? Or are we just content with the way things are — no flaming rivers, generally neat parks? (Please, stop yelling about the extinction of tigers. We are trying to write semi-autobiographical films before Lena Dunham does.)
“Don’t worry,” we say. “If it gets urgent, just show us footage of polar bears, and we’ll be on board.”
And in the mean time, Earth Day comes around. April 22nd, or as we like to call it, the Day After National Record Store Day. How to celebrate?
Does anyone have googly eyes?