We Thought We Had Spotted an Exotic Bloom. It Was the Vividly Colored Remains of a Soda Bottle.

It is springtime, and I want to turn to thoughts of love.

In my case, love of this world, love of nature, love of our life in and as part of it. How I wish we all still loved that way.

New York City’s winter leaf cover has been blown away and stuffed into large, shiny, pristine black plastic bags. Left behind is the detritus of winter’s walkers. That would be the squashed plastic bottles, baggies full of dog poop, takeout containers (some with dinners that rats missed), dead balloons, lost neoprene gloves and abandoned plastic toys, pacifiers, baby bottles, combs, condoms. That’s just what I spotted in the first mile of a recent walk along Riverside Drive heading south from the 150s.

It was an unseasonably warm winter, a concept that could be rendered meaningless within a decade, as memories of snowfall fade. My spring walks are not exactly comforting. But I try to find the beauty with my stalwart walking pals. I am constantly spotting an exotic early bloom or a vivid unfurling of a new sort of plant, and, with exclamations of wonder and surprise, we surround my find, a new life form, perhaps. We soon realize we are gazing at the neon fronds of a partly melted hairbrush or the vivid color of the fraying ring of a soda bottle. A new form of lifelessness, maybe even an anti-life form.

As I was walking recently, I pondered, with a sense of weary bemusement, the recent decision by scientists, after nearly 15 years of debate, against declaring that we have entered a new epoch of geologic time in Earth’s 4.6 billion years, the era that many have long been calling the Anthropocene. Scientists could not yet agree that humans have irretrievably altered the geologic condition of the world enough to have earned ourselves an epoch of narcissism. Of course, by the time we have done so, we will be way past the point of drawing such lines in the rock. The reality then will be more self-evident than it is even today.

So for now, my advice: Forget the Anthropocene. We are in the Obscene Era.

Obscene as in offensive to moral principles. Repugnant, disgusting. Ill-omened or abominable, if etymology is your thing.

We have a plastic crisis, starting with the trash we see casually discarded in our streets, parks, streams and oceans. And yet the production of plastics continues to rise. For decades, the plastics industry sold the public on the material with the misleading message that it would be recycled. Very little is, with recovery and recycling rates at less than 10 percent globally. But the problem is far deeper, as a lengthy report in the journal Annals of Global Health said last year: “It is now clear that current patterns of plastic production, use and disposal are not sustainable and are responsible for significant harms to human health, the environment and the economy, as well as for deep societal injustices.”

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