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A stranger here myself: Society's overconsumption a symbol of sloth

Think for a minute — a few if you need the time — about how much you require to function each day. I’m talking about raw trash that served you temporarily, things sent to a landfill for the rest of their days. How many of those things were in your hands for only a matter of minutes?

Let’s be honest: We have a trashy culture on our hands. It’s not in a sense of promiscuity, either.

No, we’re takers in a throwaway system of “convenience.” All these roads lead to a big pile of rubbish.

I don’t think we need to argue about the wasteful ways of our society. Really, most of us clean our behinds with trees. What message does that send to the ecosystem around us? I don’t think there’s much room to argue, given that fact and scores of others.

What puzzles me is whether all of those things really lead to a convenient life.

All right, it’s easy to physically toss aside paper plates, napkins, tubes of toothpaste, contact lenses, batteries, Styrofoam, milk cartons, aerosol cans, pens, pencils, cotton swabs, those little disposable flossing devices, mesh, netting, glass, steel, old appliances (maybe not those heavy behemoths), electronics, tires, cloth, clothes, rubber, shingles, motor oil cans, light bulbs, pizza boxes, sandwich wrappers from the sub shop of your choice, greasy French fry containers, coffee cups, straws, toxic waste, and, well, a tad more.

But (and here’s that “but”), is it really convenient to have a world piling up with junk?

That’s the question at hand. There are arguments that say we deserve those conveniences, that to eliminate them is a step backward. I’ve got to say, though, that if what we are doing is “stepping forward,” I really would rather sit this one out.

We not only consume, consume, consume, but also don’t reuse much at all — and that’s what’s really infuriating. I could live a little more soundly if we at least found ways to reuse those instant-gratification joys we have, but largely, we don’t.

Even when we do have the means, many people don’t employ them. (Did you know that about 2 percent of plastic bags in the U.S. are recycled — 1 percent worldwide?) Either that, or the system is a superficial mend for a temporary hold. A little duct tape here, a little there, right?

There is an actual mobile flotilla of trash in the Earth’s oceans. It goes by many names — The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, The Pacific Trash Vortex — but what it means is precisely the same regardless. It’s a symbol of sloth.

It’s a sign that the perhaps irreparable damage wrought on the planet is all around us even if we don’t see it after it leaves our hands.

It kills, though. It maims wildlife. Watch some informational videos on just the Pacific Monstrosity alone and you’ll be dumbstruck.

So, take a minute and digest this. Start questioning how you’re consuming. If you begin feeling angry, hurt, confused, lied to, cattle-like, cynical or just outright hysterical, then good.

Don’t stop there. Keep pushing until you find out how you can avoid the cyclical system of wasteful consumption. Figure out what packaging can and can’t be easily reused or repurposed (the latter is really the better of the options). Forgo packaging when possible.

There are lists upon lists of ways to move past old consuming habits. Explore them online sometime during those idle browsing sessions late at night.

Joseph Barbaree is a graduate student studying journalism and a columnist for The Post. Tell him what you think at

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