As We See It

[Pyramid of Biscuits]

Musing on recycling, from organs to anger (and maybe actual trash)

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Illustration: Jon Estrada
Stacy J. Willis

I’m racing down the street trying to run over human organs. There’s a pair of pink lungs on the left, and I swerve to hit them but miss; there’s a beige liver on the right—boom!—100 points! Soon I’ll be using a slingshot to fling human hearts and kidneys across a room into coolers, trying to beat the clock to get more points. It’s an online game called Scalpel Pal, “the fun and interactive way to learn the importance of organ donation,” on GoRecycleYourself.com.

April is National Donate Life Month (along with Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Jazz Appreciation Month, Financial Literacy Month, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month and Confederate History Month), and the site is part of a campaign by not-for-profit Donate Life America to attract younger potential donors. I lost a good hour trying to run over a set of eyeballs while avoiding unusable body parts like the random ear or stomach. But I also learned that more than 120,000 Americans are awaiting transplants.

I’d wandered onto the site while researching recycling. I’d been to GREENFest, an environmental shindig the day after Earth Day, which has expanded into Earth Week and Earth Month, and I wanted to get an all-in-one recycling bin, because I’m still using those tiny red, white and blue crates. The notion of recycling yourself—your body—came as a bonus, as did the delightfully macabre game (set to carnival music). But it made me think more about marketing tactics in today’s media-saturated world than donating my tired liver.

*****

While today’s media-saturated world is technologically uber-fresh, it’s chock-full o’ recycled ideology. And verbiage. It’s astoundingly easy, and now banal, to connect to strangers worldwide on a daily basis. Yet when I compulsively glance at my Facebook feed—Facebook is the site upon which 41 percent of Americans rely for their news links, according to the Reuters Institute—it’s pretty much always filled with old arguments about the same old issues. And I keep digesting them anyway. Perhaps it’s true that there’s nothing new under the sun, that everything old is new again, and that ideologically speaking, recycling is not ultimately a choice but an inevitability.

To wit, I cannot believe the national conversation is once again about whether the LGBTQ community should have civil rights, and if so, when and where they should be curtailed. Somehow, in my misplaced faith or misspent youth, I thought we’d settled that. I thought we, as a nation, had grown, agreed that equality is a virtuous standard. But here it is again, clogging up my news feed—recycled ignorance, the same hackneyed hate and fear all crumpled up, repackaged and sold with a new spin: terror in the toilets.

Alarming in another enormous way is what seems like a renewal of racism and xenophobia. Perhaps it’s less a renewal than a resurfacing. Still, I see tragic images from cell-cam and dashboard videos, overt bigotry from presidential candidates and pitiful screeds from online trolls that harken back to a time I had hoped, so naively, here in Confederate History Month, we’d survived and learned from. And disposed of.

Recycling in this context does not seem like progress.

*****

On the upside, there’s still the beauty of absurdity. On the way to GREENFest at Downtown Summerlin, we passed through miles of vibrant green landscaping, little of it indigenous, all of it well-tended. Then we navigated a maze of sky-scraping palms and circled vast parking lots around the LEED-Certified-Silver complex twice before finding a spot for our carbon-fuel sucker.

The festival, meant to raise awareness about environmental sustainability, was awesome. I had my picture taken with someone wearing a Mojave Max Desert Tortoise costume. We got tons of free tchotchkes: a rubber ball that lights up when you bounce it, from NV Energy; plastic sunglasses from the Las Vegas Wash Coordination Committee; a foil-wrapped pack of disposable individual paw-wipes from a pet-rescue organization; wine-can foam koozies for the celebratory GREENFest drinks; mini inflatable plastic beach balls from, I think, a booth supporting recreational marijuana legislation; and fliers galore.

Moreover, we sat on the rich green lawn and listened to several bands rock out—amps powered by solar—while barefoot kids danced and kicked around a 3-foot inflatable Earth. One toddler tried to jump on top of it, conquer it, but Earth rolled him off.

Between bands, some percussionists held a drum circle. The leader invited the crowd to join in.

“You don’t really have to know what you’re doing,” he said. “You just have to come up and open your mind and heart a little.”

And so it is. It was a ridiculously lovely day.

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