Ethical Gravity 1: NPR Throughline, History of the Ethics of Litter (and Vermont's Historical Role)

This is really worth a listen. It's a brief history of Keep America Beautiful, the history of ethical concerns over litter, and how voters are sent "grasping at straws", or recycling, rather than focus on the environmental legacy of extraction.

NPR's series Throughline takes a swing at how voters are influenced through guilt, and how that guilt can be diluted, harnessed, or its trajectory influenced by PR.

The broadcast starts early on with my state of Vermont, which passed the first anti-single-use law to prevent litter. That led to the Keep America Beautiful industrial organization, which leveraged white guilt  through TV PSAs... but also acts as a "gatekeeper" or authority over what voters are told to keep in mind when they feel the gravitational pull of their liability or responsibility.  (I'd previously started a draft blog a month ago on the Crying Indian, but this program does better than I can).

Industry creates environmental awareness around litter because it's closer to more people's personal responsibility and "ethical gravity".

As I shared in a retweet of MIT's Jeremy Gregory's link to the NPR story, this keeps us away from extraction, mining reform, externalization of forestry and oil drilling.
The environmental impact is mostly at a point of extraction & creation. The focus on end of life is fetishism - similar to the way we spend 9/10 health care dollars on the last year of life. Probably [Steven Pinker] @sapinker could explain fear of / obsessions with "end points in plain sight".
Will have more to write about this, and explain what I mean by "ethical gravity" and personal sense of liability for a piece of litter, as opposed to the environmental costs of the mining or forestry or carbon or energy behind the production of that litter.  In fact, the whole plastics packaging debate completely ignores how much more efficient plastic packaging is at protecting - and extending the lifescycle - of food products (compared to selling food and drink in glass or cans or cardboard).

A lot of my meditation on ethical gravity, and the use of guilt and liability and risk aversion to herd behavior, crosses into topics that are not about waste at all, but cultural appropriation and race.  That may fill my draft folder for awhile, as I've been labelled an "iconoclast" when I ask questions from a reservoir of deep thinking.  See the 2011 blogs about Priestatollahs and the fight for ethical authority. The war between OEMs and the Charitable Industrial Complex will someday perhaps soon be used by Artificial Intelligence to influence all of our votes and direct us all to greater environmental sustainability (or Skynet).

This is part of the problem in carbon policy... carbon is hard to see, and visualization defines our ethical orbit. Some people will care more about a discarded plastic straw than about ocean floor mining to produce electric car batteries, just as many people donate more to save sad abandoned pets over endangered rhinos.  For me, extinction is far sadder than kittens suffering. Some people think that's cold.

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