I am getting interesting responses to Why I Don’t Burn Cars Anymore, both on and off line. Patricia from Uruguay thought I might be why the ozone is so thin in her part of the world. Might be, but I suspect it took more than my childish efforts.
The most thought provoking question was when someone asked me what I thought I had to do to rectify the karma of the situation. Well, now that is a quite a question, isn’t it?
First of all, does a child who is not in a decision making role take on karma for participating in activities decided by others? My brother and I were children, you will recall, and never burned cars as independent decision making adults.
Our father was going to burn cars without regard to our point of view. As kids who did not know any better, we did like burning them as it was a lot more fun than what happened next. My father’s health was failing so my brother and I were forced to work. After those burned cars cooled our task was to strip the copper wiring from inside the charred cars.
We were small enough to stand inside and pull the wiring out of the top of the car, down the doorposts, along the floor, under the dash, etc. Every pull stirred soot and ashes that flew in the air and all over us. Wearing a scarf over our faces did not help much and certainly did not save us from the ridicule of the other kids in the neighborhood.
I wonder if breathing that ashen debris had anything to do with my struggles with lymph cancer in my twenties? Or was it the polluted river? Or the fumes from the chemical plant near my high school? My graduating class has an exceptionally high death rate no one has investigated.
In any event, if you say that participating was enough to create karma, more questions arise. I direct these questions at those of us who live in the United States. Those of you who live in other countries are welcome to wear however much of this is appropriate for how you and your countrymen handle things.
If participation is sufficient to incur karma, how many of you can truthfully say that you never rode in a family car that had any parts made from the recycled steel that burned cars produced?
After all, burning cars was a standard practice for recycling scrapped metal at that time. Our societal group deemed that was the normal way to do things so as a group everyone participated in one manner or another.
Where is the karmic burden in that scenario? And rather than talking about yesterday, how about talking about today? As you stand in your driveway beside your car with a lawn drenched in poisonous chemicals and a house full of consumer goods, how much environmental pollution do you think you have caused?
Just getting the food on your table causes an immense environmental burden, let alone all the rest. Due to current agricultural practices the farmlands are losing both quantity and quality of topsoil. Destructive herbicides, insecticides, and soil depleting fertilizing processes are intrinsic to current methods of crop production.
In addition to that, animals are routinely misused as part of food production. Do you think the recent news stories of birds being urinated upon by the slaughterhouse workers before killing the birds is an extreme perversion? Or the torture of downed cattle at another slaughterhouse?
Actually those are slightly more extreme examples of the way our food animals are handled all the time. Animals are forced to stand in masses of their own waste while being fed antibiotics to keep them from being killed by the detrimental effects of eating the grain that fattens them for slaughter. Their bodies are not meant for eating so much grain and cattle are killed shortly before they would have died from grain acidosis anyway.
This does not yet address the environmental costs associated with transporting and processing food over long distances. All those costs silently add up to far more than you pay for that food on your plate. Turning a blind eye to this behavior and racking up more farm subsidies does not solve it.
So, if you eat food that is not locally grown and locally processed with sustainable methods, I guarantee you are daily participating in far more environmental damage than those burning cars produced.
And we have not even started discussing the consumer goods gathered from all corners of the world with production methods that create all manner of havoc in many countries.
The big difference is a burning car produces a really noticeable plume of acrid black smoke that allows you to point a finger in horror and shock. That pollution is unmistakable.
Apparently participating in more diffused pollution spread all around the globe you can’t personally see is far more acceptable. After all, you are just living a normal life according to the standards society has set, right?
Hmm, isn’t that what my father was doing when he burned cars as part of the scrapping process?
So where is the karmic responsibility in all this? Are children exempt from the karma created by the decisions of their elders? They certainly don’t have a way to escape the consequences, that much is certain. Are all individuals to be held personally responsible for how they participate in their societal group, in those karma producing decisions?
And who, exactly, do you think is going to clean up the whole mess anyway?
Jared Diamond asks “What’s Your Consumption Factor?” in an excellent article. If you want to measure your own ecological footprint go to Redefining Progress and take the quiz listed in the left sidebar.
When I took the quiz my numbers were far better than the normal for the USA but still too high to be sustainable. Guess I have more work to do on that…
Copyright © Lexi Sundell 2008. All Rights Reserved.