I'm Doing My Inconsequential Part For The EnvironmentCommentary • environment • Politics • Opinion • ISSUE 44•27 ISSUE 42•19 • May 10, 2006 By Peter Keim As human beings continue to wreak havoc on the ecosystem, with seemingly no awareness of the long-term effects of our shortsighted actions, we seriously jeopardize the fragile balance of life on this big blue marble we call Spaceship Earth. Now is the time to take steps toward creating a cleaner environment, however insignificant and useless those steps may be. That's why I'm doing my own laughably inconsequential part to end pollution, limit damage to our precious ecosystem, and preserve what remains of our planet's biodiversity for future generations.Every day, without fail, I meticulously organize my recyclables into five distinct categories, thereby subtracting an eyedropper's worth of garbage from the countless tons of waste that ferment in our landfills. It only takes a few extra minutes, but just think of the impact it totally lacks. I also refuse to use anything but "Earth-friendly" paper products—some of which contain up to 10 percent recycled materials. For me, it's worth shouldering the extra cost, but, unfortunately, only a scant few of us bother to do the same. And growing some of my own organic vegetables in my backyard garden also, to my immense gratification, reduces the use of toxic chemical-based pesticides and herbicides present in corporate farming techniques by as much as 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000001 percent. These quixotic, Sisyphean efforts are my way of dealing with what is perhaps the most crucial and difficult issue of our time.Why do I boycott multinational oil and gas corporations that fail to acknowledge and address global-warming issues, resulting in a few less dollars in their swollen coffers? Or participate in demonstrations against local wetland destruction that are attended by as many as a dozen people, before the wetland is eventually drained and cleared for a new Wal-Mart anyway? Why make the effort? Because I care. And I want these feelings to manifest themselves in barely measurable ways. By using mass transit or riding my bike whenever possible, I may not be able to influence greenhouse-gas emissions standards or reduce mass global addiction to fossil fuels one iota. Nor, by slavishly collecting every banana peel or coffee ground to make my own rich garden compost, will I alter our consumer culture's pathological tendency to devour everything it encounters at an exponentially advancing rate. Restricting my household energy use to non-peak hours does not make me capable of reversing temperature changes in the gulf stream that even now have begun to throw the world's climate out of equilibrium. The question, however, is not "What can't I do?" but rather, "What can I do?"The answer: next to nothing.At the very least, I know with absolute certainty that I have done everything I can to nurture and protect the environment, through genuinely well-intentioned albeit minuscule actions, tragically destined to have absolutely no substantive effect. For I sleep better at night knowing that I have as much influence on global environmental policy as I would had I never been born. Conservation is more urgent than ever. Scientists inform us that the combined effects of fossil-fuel consumption, land clearance, and overfishing the planet's seas have already ushered in a period of "mass global extinction," the sixth so far recorded in Earth's history, and the only one to be entirely man-made. In the next century, between two-thirds and three-fourths of all plant and animal species now in existence could become permanently extinct. But by carefully conserving water with the specially designed low-impact toilet I had installed, I can take comfort in the knowledge that I did what I could do to delay this inevitable global death-age by as many as several nanoseconds.Won't you join me in this ongoing effort to foster an imperceptible improvement to this doomed and dying planet? You'll be rewarded with the knowledge that, despite the irreversible effects of centuries of sustained environmental abuse by the human race, individuals, working together, can fight this inevitability in a real, concrete, tiny, and totally ineffective show of unity.Together, we can make an unbelievably negligible difference.