Marchbooks' Blog

May 29, 2009

Styrofoam No More by Janus Kane

I purchased items from two different companies last week. They were delivered two days apart. They were similar items and were shipped by the same carrier. They came packaged in roughly the same way, with one MAJOR difference. The first box was filled with those vile styrofoam peanuts that no one knows what to do with. They are a bane on the environment but, hey, we need our packages to arrive in good condition – damn the environment. The second box was also loaded with peanuts (not the edible kind) although, wait a minute, I guess you could eat them if you had a hankering for cornstarch. Well, I’ll be, these little suckers are not made out of styrofoam at all.

I only suspected the difference (kudos to the responsible manufacturer, by the way) because, in appearance, these peanuts are virtually identical to their more toxic brothers. Only a slight color variation, and the fact that I had seen these once before, prompted me to bring one to the kitchen sink. In seconds, this thing was gone and on its way into my septic system.

Simply put, I hope the person who developed these little, bio-degradeable miracles is a millionaire, and then some. This person has found a cure for one of the most troubling drains on our environment. No longer will our landfills have to be packed with acres of non-decomposing styrofoam. It is, in my opinion, one of the greatest advancements in recent history and may benefit our future welfare almost as much as the discovery of penicillin.

But, one has to wonder, what has been done to encourage the use of this better, safer, far more environmentally sound solution to the use of styrofoam? Not much, from what I can see. Are styrofoam manufacturers converting their plants to start making this new, non-toxic product? Are other manufacturers clamoring for more of this environmentally sound packing material? Has the government put a ban on new styrofoam production? These are all things that should be done, IMMEDIATELY.

Often, when you find an alternative to something that is harmful, it comes at some expense. That decadent seven-layer chocolate cake is not good for you. Your choice is to eat what is harmful or choose an alternate, less appealing substitute. Gasoline omissions pollute our air. Our choice is to accept the inevitable pollution or get our biking shorts out of the closet. Here is one of the very rare instances where we can have our cake and eat it too. So, why are we not doing it?

Competition by Janus Kane

Piggybacking on M.J.’s commentary from the other day, I would like to open this discussion – why is competition so important to us? Why are we so driven to compete? It does not sustain us. Competition is not a necessity like food, water or air and yet some of us crave it and hold it in greater reverence than the oxygen they breathe.

I begins early, when we are children. Many parents stress about getting their children into the ‘best’ schools, pushing them to get excellent grades and join and excel at sports and other groups. We soon start to define ourselves by our GPA, sports achievements or other awards. We are encouraged to; jump higher, run faster, be smarter and hit that baseball harder. Parents have become violent at their children’s little league games – all in the name of good, wholesome competition, while children are shunned by their peers because they are not wearing the best shoes or designer jeans.

We continue to compete as we grow older, scrambling for the most attractive spouse, the biggest house in the nicest neighborhood, the most expensive car and the best paying jobs. To what end? The fastest man in the world must some day step aside as someone new steps up to break that record. The prettiest model must someday accept the fact that her looks have faded in the natural aging process. The most affluent among us must still accept the inevitable end that we all must face. All of their prosperity amounts to little more than a number on a balance sheet and a few luxuries that most of us will not enjoy. But, at the end of the day, they will lie, just as cold and dead in the ground as we will.

What will it take for us to realize that these accomplishments are as inconsequential in the great scheme of things as the length of grass on a perfectly mown lawn. Time will come and do its will, leaving our petty accomplishments in its wake.

Once put into perspective, there is nothing wrong with pushing one’s body or mind to the limits of its endurance. Striving for perfection, whether it be faster, stronger or smarter is a worthy pursuit, as long as this drive does not cloud one’s focus on life itself. But, what of the unwilling victims of this lust for perfection? Is it fair for a child to be dragged along, unwillingly, in the wake of their parents’ need to be connected, albeit vicariously, to their spawn’s achievements. And what of the animals that are so mercilessly pushed and prodded for our entertainment?

If an adult male wants to run himself into a heart attack for the sake of pursuing the four minute mile, so be it. Most animal competitions are fairly innocuous: cat shows, obstacle and obedience trials and dressage events.  But, when it comes to blood sports and racing, where immature horses are ridden into the ground for ‘sport’ and animals are starved and tortured to make them aggressive, more sensible minds should prevail.

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