Monday Ministerial Musings
By Rev. Mark William Ennis
Blog Number 12
March 23, 2020
The Fruit of the Disposable
I am hearing reports from people in the health care industry of a critical shortage of protective masks. This has a great many health care workers worried about their own protection as well as the protection of their patients. In some cases, I am told, these masks are having to be reused until new supplies arrive. I think that we are now harvesting the fruit of our disposable world.
The first recorded use of surgical masks was recorded in 1897 by Paul Berger during an operation in Paris. Back then, like everything else, masks were cleaned and reused. I remember the debate in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s as hospitals began to transition from reusable equipment to disposable items. Some felt that throwing things away was a good idea because it would limit germ spread. Other folks felt that it would add costs and would cause problems with our landfill systems.
Now we depend on manufacturers of these masks, and untold other items for a constant supply, instead of cleaning and reusing them. Had we continued to stay away from the disposable, we would not be having a shortage. We are harvesting the fruit of our desire to throw away instead of clean.
My grandmother used to tell me stories of her days running a farm. A cloth was re-used in the outhouse, before the days of tampons other cloths were cleaned and re-used, a cloth towel was used in the kitchen instead of paper towels. Even napkins and diapers were cloth. Bottles were refilled instead of “recycled.” Who knows where they really get put? Were we to live like she did, there would be no such shortages of these items.
In the days of reusable, we had to work harder but we were less dependent on manufacture and supply. We are now reaping what we sowed when chose to be disposable and not eco-friendly reusable. I feel that this was a mistake that has cost us now with full landfills and short supplies of necessary goods.
Perhaps the next generation, those who are growing up in this crazy time of guarantee and shortage will demand that we return to reusable goods. We can only hope. Maybe it is time that we took our mandate to care for the earth a little more seriously.
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