Trash Can Lids

Today’s New York Times carries a commemoration of the May revolution in Paris. The general tenor of the article is that the revolution is incomplete, politically if not socially, a phenomenon that is presumed to be most evident in the fact that young people today don’t have much taste for change. The son of one of the leaders of the May ’68 uprising says, “We’re a generation without bearings.”

Photograph by Marc RiboudIndeed, at first glance, it’s dispiriting: such an abyss between the optimism of those days and the weary resignation, the sad cynicism of today. Look at those trash can lids, even. What would we bring if we took to the streets in protest now? Garbage bags?

And that’s when something clicked in my head. These are the old tapes–the program put together by dinosaurs still complaining about that blasted comet, or whatever it was, that put a dark and sooty end to all their brightest hopes of making the world just right for dinosaurs. The world has changed. Whatever is happening in France these days, I don’t really know, but another day has dawned on a dark and sooty planet. A new disquiet is gathering speed, not armed with bricks or decked out with demands–not yet–but spurred on by the notion that something is fundamentally wrong.

If it takes 9.5 planets to sustain the world population at our level of consumption and under current conditions, then what exactly does that tell us about a society that can only sustain itself, more or less, by ever increasing consumption?


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