the littering theory...

i have a new theory.

i just came up with it about thirty minutes ago, while driving home from work.

we've talked about culture before, right? of course we have. this is just that culture-chatting sort of blog. and we've talked about identity. and behavior. and how so much of culture and identity and behavior is learned. someone or something teaches us.

i was thinking about all of that.

and then i was thinking about litterers. not litters, as in cute baby animals; litterers. the most horrible, wretched kind of person there is on this planet: people who viscously and intentionally throw trash out of their car windows — possibly while sitting in a white car while stopped at a light while waiting to turn onto northern parkway. villains.

from there, i began wondering (as i patiently waited with my turn signal clicked on, pointing in the correct direction, for the light to turn) who on earth teaches these vile people such callous and disgusting behavior.

and then it hit me.

oregon trail.

i don't know how many of you good readers played oregon trail one, two, three, or twenty in elementary school (i know i played it both in school and at home growing up), but if you did, you'll understand exactly why it's to blame.

you see (if you haven't played oregon trail), this computer game (which began as a simple 2-d, nothing graphic game and grew up to be a more 3-d, interactive, nothing game) was all about the oregon trail and the trials settlers had to overcome while moving cross-country. you had a group of characters (that you either named after your best friends or your enemies and then waited to see who would die of typhoid fever first) that you directed across the land, trying to overcome obstacles and not die. (or, if you had used the names of people you didn't like, die.)

a lot of these obstacles involved annoying things, like the wagon getting stuck in the mud. or the wagon getting overturned while trying to cross a river. or a wagon having difficulties getting up a hill. and the solution to all of these problems was simple: drop stuff.

never in this scenario did it say "make jeremiah get off his lazy arse and carry the junk that's too heavy" or "take two or three trips instead of being a pushy idiot and trying to move it all in one go" or "make sure the stuff you're dropping is biodegradable and not harmful chemicals." and you were never allowed to go back and pick up what you'd dropped. or recycle stuff.

waste in general — but particular food waste and food product waste — has become a huge problem in this country. but like illnesses, so often we brush off the source of the problem and try to treat the symptoms when we should be treating the disease. and the disease here is clearly oregon trail, versions one through whatever's out now. if i were to even attempt to treat the symptoms (sorry, i don't have any ideas yet how to treat the disease) of this horror, i would suggest you check out jonathan bloom's blog, wasted food, for more insight into this national, oregon trail-induced, villain epidemic. or i might suggest you look at re-nest for eco-friendly living ideas.

but i'm not. i'm going to ask for a confession from all of you good readers.

what is your worst waste moment? what made you realize it... and what have you done to repent?

i'll start you off. i've bought too many water bottles over the years, and i haven't always recycled them when i should. now i try to only use reusable bottles and, when i do (on occasion) find myself buying a water bottle, i always recycle it — whether in an art project or just using the basic city recycling program.

so now it's your turn; think hard and fess up. in the meanwhile, i'm going to go dream about eggplant for dinner and maybe see if that copy of oregon trail three upstairs still works...