Adventures in Ethics and Science

As captured in SprogCast #7, the Free-Ride offspring consider Mike Dunford’s Earth Day resolutions meme. We discover that a kid’s sense of scale is kind of different from a grown-up’s.

You can grab the mp3 here. The approximate transcript of the conversation follows.


Dr. Free-Ride: I think I told you guys that we were going to talk again on something Earth Day-related, even though Earth Day was back on Wednesday.

Elder offspring: Yeah …

Younger offspring: But we already talked about Earth Day!

Dr. Free-Ride: Sure, but I said we were going to do more. First of all, do you guys know what an internet meme is?

Younger offspring: No. I know what an internet mime is.

Dr. Free-Ride: I don’t even want to know what an internet mime is right now, if that’s all the same to you. An internet meme … often it’s like a little set of questions that one person answers and then other people will take these questions and answer them, too. It’s that kind of dealie. Anyway, one of the other bloggers at ScienceBlogs, Mike Dunford who blogs at the Questionable Authority, which you guys probably aren’t old enough to read on a regular basis because you’re not so into the political stuff –

Younger offspring: I am!

Dr. Free-Ride: OK. I’ll pre-read them to make sure they’re kid friendly. Anyway, he came up with a really nice Earth Day meme that he calls “Small, Bigger, Better.” The idea was, you think of things you can do to be more environmentally friendly, to reduce your impact. So, he wants you to come up with three things. The first is something small you can do, something that you’re not doing already, that doesn’t take too much effort, but that might have an impact. The second thing is something bigger, something kind of ambitious, something that requires enough effort that you might not be able to do it, but you’re going to try. And the third thing he wants you to come up with is better, which is something you’re doing already, but that you could make even better than how you’re doing it now. So, shall we start with the small?

Younger offspring: Small is just like, we plant a tree?

Dr. Free-Ride: What kind of tree?

Younger offspring: Um, any tree?

Elder offspring: Laurel?

Dr. Free-Ride: Laurel. Bay laurel? ‘Cause then I could use the bay leaves in cooking.

Elder offspring: Yeah, but remember in the Greek myths, when Apollo turned the nymph into — I mean, when the river god father turned the nymph into when Apollo was trying to marry her?

Dr. Free-Ride: I do recall that. I don’t know that that necessarily makes it more environmentally friendly. I do know that bay laurel trees actually maybe have some issues playing nice with other trees, so we’ll have to figure that out. So you think adding another tree to the back yard or the front yard would be a small thing we could do.

Younger offspring: Uh huh.

Dr. Free-Ride: Have you ever planted a tree before?

Younger offspring: (Nods)

Dr. Free-Ride: You have? Where?

Younger offspring: (Gestures toward the back yard)

Dr. Free-Ride: You? I don’t think you planted those trees.

Younger offspring: Fine! You did.

Dr. Free-Ride: Planting trees might actually be more work than you think it is.

Younger offspring: But, you just plant a seed in and watch it grow and water it and watch it grow, and water it more and watch it grow more. Just watering and watching and planting a seed.

Dr. Free-Ride: Mmm, OK. So that’s your small. What’s your bigger? What’s your more ambitious project?

Younger offspring: Bigger is to go to a lake or a river near a factory and take all the pollution out.

Dr. Free-Ride: OK, do you have a plan for how to do that? Because I will allow as how that is very ambitious, but I’m not sure that’s something bigger that we could actually do.

Younger offspring: We can!

Dr. Free-Ride: We, collectively?

Younger offspring: You said we might not –

Dr. Free-Ride: — be able to do it?

Younger offspring: Uh huh.

Dr. Free-Ride: So you’re setting your sights very high. Hmm. OK, what’s your better? What’s your thing that we’re doing already that we could do better than we’re doing?

Younger offspring: Turn off the lights in the morning. Like this.

Dr. Free-Ride: OK, you think it’s light enough? If you want, you can walk right over and turn out that light, then.

Younger offspring: And every light. Even that light. (Points to the unoccupied bathroom)

Dr. Free-Ride: Yeah, that’s a good idea. Certainly, when there’s no one in the room, lights should be off. OK, elder offspring, are you ready to give me your small, your bigger, and your better?

Elder offspring: Yeah.

Dr. Free-Ride: So what’s your small thing that we could do that we’re not doing already?

Elder offspring:Use bath water to water plants?

Dr. Free-Ride: OK, so not just the warming-up water, but the water that people have been bathing in.

Elder offspring:Yeah.

Dr. Free-Ride: We’ve got to make sure that’s for the non-food plants.

Elder offspring: We don’t want soapy food.

Dr. Free-Ride: Well, and just in case you guys are harboring bacteria that would be harmful in things that we eat. ‘Cause, you know –

Elder offspring: Hey!

Dr. Free-Ride: You know, you’re washing stuff of of you in bath water, so —

Elder offspring: You were harboring bacteria once, too!

Dr. Free-Ride: I probably still am. That’s what I’m saying — that’s the difference between warming-up water and that you’ve washed in. But sure, we could do a bucket brigade to take old bath water out to water the ornamental plants and the tiny patch of lawn we have. OK, what’s your bigger thing?

Elder offspring: Become a hobo!

Dr. Free-Ride: Ummmm. OK, explain to me how that’s environmentally friendly.

Elder offspring: Well, number one, you don’t use much electricity. Number two, you don’t use running water. Number three … umm … you don’t take a bath often, so you save water.

Dr. Free-Ride: OK, I will check with the school whether they would be OK with you adopting the hobo lifestyle, or whether that would create problems with having you in the classroom with non-hobo children. Gosh, those are the two choices you have. Do all the environmental remediation outside a factory or become a hobo. I hope your “better” is actually more realistic, because I know you have good ideas and I would like to be able to implement some of them. So what’s your idea for better?

Elder offspring: Don’t buy packaged things that you don’t need so you can not make more pollution.

Dr. Free-Ride: What are the things that we buy that have too much packaging where there’s an option to get it with less packaging?

Elder offspring: Umm. American cheese!

Dr. Free-Ride: Yeah. We never get American cheese. That’s not on my list of things that I consider actual foods.

Elder offspring: Caramel candies!

Dr. Free-Ride: Yeah, we don’t get those either. Something where we actually have waste coming into the house that we could reduce.

Younger offspring: Barbie dolls!

Dr. Free-Ride: Oh my gosh, Barbie dolls have more packaging than anything else I’ve ever seen! But you know what? It’s not like we’re getting those with the weekly groceries. You guys haven’t eaten a Barbie doll in months!

Younger offspring: Not eating them, playing with them! But they have the most packaging!

Dr. Free-Ride: They do have a great deal of packaging.

Younger offspring: That’s why we need to reduce that packaging.

Elder offspring: Pokemon cards. It’s better to buy one big package than all these small packs.

Dr. Free-Ride: Don’t the big packs come with lots of smaller packages inside them?

Younger offspring: Yep.

Dr. Free-Ride: I think that they do.

Elder offspring: Yeah. OK, then, buy lots of little ones!

Dr. Free-Ride: No, I don’t think so. Maybe just buying fewer Pokemon cards.

Elder offspring: What?!

Dr. Free-Ride: Or is there a way to get them in bulk somewhere? Like a bulk bin of Pokemon cards?

Elder offspring:Ebay!

Dr. Free-Ride: Ebay … but then there’s shipping. Shipping involves packaging. And fuel, lots of fuel. I’d rather think of things where we’ve got packaging that we could reduce altogether. We could substitute the packaged drinks you guys drink with your lunches for fresh water in your water bottles.

Elder offspring: OK.

Younger offspring: OK. Or fresh milk in my water bottle.

Dr. Free-Ride: Milk doesn’t stay so cold in the water bottle. Maybe in a small Thermos.

Younger offspring: OK!

Dr. Free-Ride: You know what, though? Drinking too much milk is bad for the environment.

Younger offspring: Oh.

Dr. Free-Ride: Because cows have an environmental impact.

Younger offspring: Oh yeah.

Dr. Free-Ride: Oh yeah.

Elder offspring: BURP!

Younger offspring: But I looove milk.

Dr. Free-Ride: You love milk, but can you drink filtered water for one meal a day and be OK with it? That might lower your environmental impact.

Younger offspring: Yes, but still, sometimes for lunch can I have milk in a small thermos?

Dr. Free-Ride: Maybe on a special occasion. But on those days you’ll be having filtered water for one of the other meals instead. OK?

Younger offspring: OK.

Comments

  1. #1 becca
    April 24, 2009

    The ebay thing isn’t good, because of shipping. But buying used toys via craigslist or neighborhood yardsales should work.