Thursday, May 25, 2006

Imagine leaving behind a family heirloom; something noteworthy by which your descendants are able to remember you and your time period. It is an heirloom that will survive 228,571 generations of your family tree. Yes, you read that correctly: an heirloom to be left behind that will last well over 228,000 generations of your family tree! Amazing.

So, what is this precious and hardy trinket that will be able to weather the millenniums to come? A one-gallon plastic milk carton. Yes, you read that correctly as well: a one-gallon plastic milk carton. Environmental scientists project that it would/will take 16 million years for just such an item to "biodegrade" in the soil. An artifact that may collectively sum up our "grab and throw" era...

Now, before you write me off as a tree-hugging eco-freak, I simply bring this bit of information before you in the format of an everyday context: the length of familial generations. Even by doing so, it is still difficult to wrap one's mind around 228,571 family generations. Let's simply project - to ease everyone's conscience - that a one-gallon plastic milk carton took only 1000 years to biodegrade. That projection propels us forward to the year 3006; a mere 14 family generations from now. By the time this carton were to biodegrade at the turn of the next millennium, your family tree and my family tree will not even remember who we are or that we existed. But at least that carton will still be around to remind them.

Recycle. I am one of the first to admit that it is not the end-all to addressing our environmental challenges that lie at our feet and ahead of us, but it's a start. If you haven't begun to do so, start recycling at least your aluminum, glass and plastic. And if you're already doing it, be sure to encourage one more person. It will mean one less person leaving behind a legacy that we can't afford to continue.