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Saturday, January 31, 2009

When Right Is Wrong And Simple Gets Complicated

(This was mentioned in an email by my buddy Shirley as a possible topic to explore here at the Dept., and when it came up in the comments section on my other blog, I thought it deserved discussion.)

Have you ever noticed how damned hard it is to do the right thing anymore? We were told to start drinking more water, so we all ditched soda and began buying bottled water. Now we're being carped at about how gullible we are for spending money on water, of all things, and worse, for overloading the landfills with more needless plastic containers. Then, we find out that--horrors to end all horrors--the reusable bottles we opted for to save the environment are made out of Bisphenol A and phthalates, which are detrimental to our health and may linger in our bodies far longer than first thought. Holy crap. What the hell are we supposed to do? I guess just dehydrate or get hammered on wine, which, depending upon the studies, may or may not be good for us.

We're all trying so hard not to add to the general clutter of our planet and our lives. The mantra for the last ten years seems to be Simplify, Simplify. I like the concept. I really do. I used to get two newspapers a day. I subscribed to four magazines: Vanity Fair, Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly, Bon Appetit. Then I realized something: when each one came, I sat down immediately and read it, cover to cover. Then it sat on the coffee table where it used to get knocked off by someone (Jared or Sam) propping his feet up or a rambunctious cat event, or used as a coaster. I had to keep moving it to dust or look for something. Eventually, I'd recycle it, then wait for the new one. And I hated Magazine Gleaning--you know, the time you take to first rip out all the stupid subscription cards, overpowering perfume samples, and freefalling ad cards that inhibit your reading enjoyment. Finally, I stopped renewing, and I don't miss any of them. I read lots of interesting stuff online. Where there are no annoying cards, no smelly perfumes, and I feel like I'm being environmentally-conscious as well.

But...yikes. Have you seen this? I feel really guilty! So many magazines are folding. So many people out of work! Crap.

Now, the newspaper thing is a little different. I am down to one newspaper a day for an entirely different reason. I stopped our local paper because I just could not tolerate A) the poor level of writing; B) the obvious bias against our high school; C) the delivery person's stubborn refusal to stop tracking through our landscaping. Okay. But my wonderful remaining newspaper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer is having its problems as well. Layoffs! Job cuts! The publisher that owns it and other newspapers sees a grim future. People are getting their news online, no doubt about it. And...that is keeping lots of paper out of the waste stream. And the demand for recyclable material in this economy is down anyway. See what I mean? I'm being green and environmentally responsible! Yet I might be hurting the U.S. economy as well!

I think this is, perhaps, an example of a Catch-22.

So, my question is: Am I part of the solution or part of the problem?

15 comments:

  1. Businesses who produce a product need to make sure that the product is one that consumers will want to pay for. When the market changes, these businesses may have to change their product if they want to avoid serious problems ($4.00 gas + SUV + recession = lots of problems with the auto industry).

    I've actually looked at the PD's online content in the past, and it sucks. If they had put a little more effort into making something more readable and attracted more advertisers, they might not be in such a dire position. Certain people would have still preferred a print copy (which can be made from such a high percentage of recyclable materials that it's not the biggest waste in the world), but they would have still been making revenue from those who opt to get their news online.

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  2. Ortizzle6:56 PM

    You are absolutely part of the solution. The availability of news online and the trees it saves far outweighs the joblessness caused by magazines and newspapers biting the dust. People will use their ingenuity to come up with other ways to bring home the bacon. If we don't take care of our planet, being unemployed is the least of our problems.

    Let's take care of Mother Earth.

    For the rest: Necessity is the Mother of Invention. I can't wait to see what cool jobs do start appearing in the workforce. Because they will.

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  3. Ortizzle--It's true. We, as a nation, seem so far behind the curve. I read that the Obama team was stunned at how technologically stunted the various White House offices are. And I had read a while ago at how "backward" the Pentagon's computers are. Ridiculous.

    Mikey--The online version of the PD IS terrible. Most of the NE Ohio newspapers are. I think they did that on purpose in order to keep the paper version viable longer. Or, maybe it's the classic backward, provincial nature of the Midwest. I don't know. I prefer the paper newspaper. It's so satisfying to me. Like a REAL BOOK. There's a commercial for "the app store" on TV and one of them is to read a classic on your Iphone. How insane and ridiculous. Do not even attempt to defend THAT "app" to me. EVER.

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  4. Boy, am I feeling guilty ... on many levels. First, I don't remember getting an email notice on this post. So, now I feel like I've left your post uncommented for too long, especially after you gave me the nice mention and linked to my blog--thank you!! (Of course, you know my mention was only minor compared to this great post you wrote.)

    Then I read the article about the magazines having gone or going under and feel guilty there. There were some surprises in that listing, and some sad losses. (Domino was just another glitzy, no content magazine to me though.) BTW, I did the magazine gleaning, too! What amazes me is when you get a magazine from someone else and it still has all that stuff in it! How can you read a magazine and leave that annoying stuff in it? Anyway, I still subscribe to two magazines, both related to my gluten intolerance support group so I share that info with members. My husband gets two magazines now--one a gift subscription from his mom and the other one he loves.

    Newspapers ... I don't think I will ever want to give up my paper newspaper. Our weekly local paper is a true rag ... it will never reach newspaper status in my opinion and I could care less about it. But, our city newspaper is an excellent one. Oh, I still get irritated when I find typos here and there, but I really enjoy the info, and diversity of the info, shared in the newspaper. I read a couple of news sources online, including the city newspaper, but those are just quick blips and quality is not usually top notch. However, when I read my paper newspaper I often feel like I am reading old news. And, they are already cutting back in areas.

    I believe in better technology, but I don't think it's a good thing when people are "plugged into" (virtually or not) something communicating all day vs actually really interacting with a human.

    The water bottles ... why does it all have to be so hard? Have you seen the PowerPoint presentations about water bottles and plastic bags? Aargh.

    I want to simplify, too, and am, but still I feel badly because it's not a straight path to happiness, prosperity, and a green planet.

    Thanks for the great post, Nance! Send me a special email to let me know when you post one where you share all the answers (LOL) ... hey, Obama is doing a LOT of interviews right now, maybe you can quiz him.

    Shirley

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  5. Oh no! Please say it's not so! Not the magazines. NOT THE MAGAZINES!!!!

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  6. I had a conversation with myself about this very topic the other day at the grocery store. I was waiting in the check out line looking at a magazine. I picked it up to buy it and immediately put it back because I knew that I could look at it at home online. For FREE. And then I wondered how many other people do this very same thing and how much longer we would even be able to buy a print magazine.

    We get the Plain Dealer and the local paper delivered to the house. Only because the Husband would just buy them every day if we didn't have some one leave them at the bottom of the driveway for the neighbor's dog to piss all over. But I do recycle them every week. I find it to be a pain in my ass but I do my part and put whats left of them (after Micah has had his fun shreddng and eating them)in the blue bags.

    It is a catch 22, for sure. you'll get a slap on the wrist either way.

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  7. I had a conversation with myself about this very topic the other day at the grocery store. I was waiting in the check out line looking at a magazine. I picked it up to buy it and immediately put it back because I knew that I could look at it at home online. For FREE. And then I wondered how many other people do this very same thing and how much longer we would even be able to buy a print magazine.

    We get the Plain Dealer and the local paper delivered to the house. Only because the Husband would just buy them every day if we didn't have some one leave them at the bottom of the driveway for the neighbor's dog to piss all over. But I do recycle them every week. I find it to be a pain in my ass but I do my part and put whats left of them (after Micah has had his fun shreddng and eating them)in the blue bags.

    It is a catch 22, for sure. you'll get a slap on the wrist either way.

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  8. Nina--And the blue bag thing! I really feel guilty about not doing the cloth bag thing at the grocery store, but I'm not hauling 10-15 cloth bags into the store every time and going through that hassle. I reuse the blue bags for a variety of things, but I feel like such a shit for not being Major Green about the shopping bag thing. I just find it so worky.

    apathy lounge--i got so sick of magazines being 50% or more advertising, really. I started asking myself: What am I really paying for here? and that's one reason why they're going down the drain--no advertising revenue. it's like television, which is now interrupted by SO DAMN MANY COMMERCIALS anymore, that i just become frustrated or bored, and i honestly forget what i was watching. if it cannot hold me, then really, was it THAT good? answer: NO. as a result, i don't watch many shows anymore.

    shirley--i wondered where you were...LOL. i think ortizzle and mikey have hit on something regarding how slow the USA and many of our industries are to catch up to the curve of technology and how some businesses are simply ringing their own death knells. how many more red (or black) flags do they need?

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  9. I'll be sad when newspapers and magazines go completely online. I think that there's a different attention span to reading something on paper than there is to reading something online. Online, I tend to skim and skip around, while if it's paper, I tend to finish the article I'm reading.

    Regarding water, I just keep a glass of tap water on my desk, and drink it all day. My brita filter is downstairs, and once in awhile I think of getting another one for up here, but then I think of the little bit of extra exercise I get going up and down the stairs, so I keep it there. But I work from home. Not everyone has the luxury of making a mug or a glass work for them. But they could try.

    I'm also behind the curve on the grocery bags. I have some mesh ones, but I don't like them as much as the structured ones, which I haven't bought yet, so I mostly use plastic. But I recycle them by cleaning up my dog's poop, so it's not all bad, right?

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  10. "You are absolutely part of the solution. The availability of news online and the trees it saves far outweighs the joblessness caused by magazines and newspapers biting the dust. People will use their ingenuity to come up with other ways to bring home the bacon."

    I completely agree with Ortizzle.

    Do you remember George Carlin in the early days reminding us what was important?

    Al Sleet, the Hippy Dippy Weather Man: "Folks, it looks like a bad storm is coming our way tonight. Oh, and I now see that the Russians have launched 15 ICBM missiles in our direction. That pretty much means that the storm could be the least of our worries."

    Ortizzle again:

    "If we don't take care of our planet, being unemployed is the least of our problems. "

    But,I sure will miss the Editorial page of The Philadelphia Inquirer and the funnies and Crossword Puzzle.I do love that paper.

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  11. All good points, but who will speak for the e-trees?

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  12. Clark--Hey, don't give me something else to perseverate over! LOL. (And welcome to the Dept!)

    Nancy--Oh, I know. It's always "big picture"--but sometimes "here and now" means we have to still live and function until we get to the ultimate goal, you know?

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  13. J.@jj--When I'm at home, I use one glass for my water all day long. And at school, I generally drink only one bottle of water and use my coffee mug, so I feel like I'm doing my part. I really do try my best to do whatever I can. I drive a hybrid, consolidate my trips on the weekends--all the GREENEST stuff I can, and try to "make trades" like reusing the plastic bags if I just can't bring myself to only use the cloth bags for groceries. Like you!

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  14. fact: magazines make the best coasters. also, we knew we werent ruining them because you usually read them all at once and very quickly after their delivery.

    the PD is solid. but sometimes, i question whether or not i could live without it, or any other news publication. as a literature major and the son of an english teacher, there has always been a great importance placed on reading in my life and i value it greatly. however, i sort of feel like at this point, we have print journalism because it is a matter of tradition, or more accurately, the status quo. more and more, readers of print journalism has become a niche audience. sorta sad, really.

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  15. JPD--that's just horrid to say. i do not want to live in a world without real newspapers. I cannot sit on my couch and do the crossword on the computer; it's not the same. I can't duplicate the experience of reading it section by section, saving some till later, cutting out the funny stuff, etc. that just sucks.

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Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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