Maybe that’s a silly question, because these days it would be hard to find someone who didn’t think recycling was a good idea. Taking something made for one purpose and finding a way to reuse it or its materials for another purpose once its original purpose is fulfilled, well that just seems like common sense. In and of itself, it is efficient, and to do otherwise seems wasteful.

Continuing the line of thinking from my last post, where I suggest the idea that making sustainable choices is essentially considering the well-being of future generations, recycling seems to take on a bit of a nobler, higher purpose than merely being efficient. I have to confess that when I dump all our paper, cardboard, glass, and number-one-and-two plastics in the big blue recycling can the city provides for us, I’m not thinking to myself ‘This is something I do out of love for my kids and their kids.’ But you know, maybe I should. Because if I didn’t, and I just tossed everything in the big green can for trash, I’m basically contributing to the problem of waste management… eventually all that trash has to be dealt with by somebody, and an awful lot of the consequences wind up in the laps of our kids.

I’ve been reading a book called Sex God by Rob Bell. In it he talks about how disconnected we are from nature, how in our society we have so effectively air-conditioned ourselves out of the need to be outdoors that it is possible to go months without spending any appreciable time outside at all. I know, I live in Arizona during the summer. You’re considered crazy to be outside when it is 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. Anyhoo, part of the disconnect finds its way into how we deal with our trash and the manner in which we satisfy our very basic human needs: shelter, water, food.

If you are reading this you’re probably the sort of person who actually thinks about where your trash goes. Maybe you even think about where your water comes from and how is it that it is safe to drink and will there be enough for everyone in the future. Maybe you even think about where your poop goes when you flush the toilet, and what happens to all the water we use to do the flushing.

You have to admit that there is something in our society that doesn’t really want to think deeply about these things. Maybe it’s denial, but maybe it’s just plain hard. I mean, do you really know how much electricity your air conditioner uses in one hour? Do you really know how much water is consumed to generate that electricity? Do you really know how much water it takes to generate enough electricity to power the air conditioners of two million people? Do you really know how much water it takes to flush all the poo for two million people in a year? Do you know how much water it takes to recover all that poopy water so it can be used for something else?

I don’t, but I know it’s a lot, and I know it’s more than we have. If we had enough, the mighty Colorado River would still be mighty all the way to the ocean, the Santa Cruz would have water in it year-round like it used to, and so would the San Pedro… which actually did run year-round until the last few years. But no more.

So maybe we ought to be asking ourselves these kinds of questions when we run our air conditioners and flush our toilets and leave the lights on in rooms we aren’t using. Maybe our kids are counting on us asking those questions.