(This was first published in Le News 12 February 2015)
‘Just look at this horrible mess!’ bellowed the bigger child the other day. ‘Who did this?’
At first I thought she may be referring to the post-breakfast fallout under the dining room table … but no. Apparently I’m still the only one who notices that. Or cares about it. Or cleans it up.
What the child was referring to was an artist’s impression of the North Pacific Trash Vortex, a massive island of plastic garbage floating just off the west coast of America.
‘It’s not mine,’ I said, employing the same tactic that the children use whenever I point at something on the floor and demand to know who it belongs to.
But, of course, some of it is mine. Maybe not the plastic in that particular garbage patch. But all my plastic is out there somewhere: the Barbie dolls and little tea sets that I played with as a child; just about everything I wore in the ’80s; and the disposable pens! Oh my goodness, how many used-up pens have I been responsible for jettisoning into the vortex, in my life?
The picture that so infuriated the child is in one of her library books, recently acquired and all similarly-themed, around environmental issues. One of them is called 50 Ways to Save the Earth but I think it should actually be called 50 Things That You Can Blame Your Parents For because it feels like every time she opens that book, she gets more upset with me and the havoc that my generation has wreaked on the planet.
‘Yoghurt?’ I’ll say, peering into the sticky mess at the bottom of her school bag. ‘Seriously?’
‘An oil spill near a marine sanctuary?’ she counters, holding up a photo of Deepwater Horizon. ‘Seriously?’
A simple enquiry, such as, ‘Where are your gym shoes, child?’ is met with a chilly, ‘Where is the ozone layer, mother?’
The other day I was subjected to a ten-minute lecture about how bad my car is for the environment and how, come summer, I needed to buy myself a bicycle.
Anyway, it’s all for the best: because of her, we’re adopting a sea turtle through the WWF (oh, how the smaller child’s eyes lit up at the thought of how much fun bath time would be … before she realised it was a virtual adoption only); we’re recycling even more (how is that possible, I wondered, until Pinterest pointed out that I could use all our old corks to make a lovely wine-scented doormat. Genius! How welcoming is that?); and the child has thoughtfully put together a care package to send to the needy. True, it’s made up almost entirely of her little sister’s clothes and shoes, but still. She means well.
And then, last week, as the big bad wind tried to huff and puff our house away, we curled up on the couch and watched The Living Planet.
‘Hmm,’ the child said, thoughtfully, after a while. ‘Parts of the Earth actually seem to be doing okay. Maybe things aren’t so bad.’
‘People are the problem,’ her little sister chimed in. ‘Sloths are nice.’
I couldn’t agree more.