March 19th, 2012

My Ecological Self on Trial: Confessions of a Graduate Student in Sustainability Education

By Malcolm Brooks


Malcolm Brooks, as with all good lol humor,  helps us look in the mirror, recognize where we come from, and not take it all so seriously.

Ecological selves are made not born.  If there were Nuremberg trials for personal ecological crimes, Younger Malcolm would stand among the accused.

Prosecuting attorney: Mr. Brooks, as a boy in White Plains, New York, did you or did you not hammer large numbers of nails through boards into a tree trunk in order to create a tree ladder?

Me on the witness stand:  Yes, I did.

Prosecuting attorney: And did you not also hoist an old, battered door up into the tree and tie it there horizontally with a rope, which rubbed and grated against a primary limb?

Me on the stand:  Yes, I did.

Prosecuting attorney: And when your family moved to Geneva, Switzerland, did you or did you not establish three additional tree forts with nails that pierced the bark of thriving trees?

Me on the stand:  Yes, I did.

Prosecuting attorney: And did you not catch seventy tiny frogs with your bare hands, place them all in a bucket, dig a hole in your front yard, fill it with chlorinated water, and pour the helpless amphibians into this poison?

Me on the stand:  Yes, I did.

Prosecuting attorney: And when the seventy frogs tried to hop away, did you not catch them and force them back into the chlorinated puddle?

Me on the stand:  Yes, I did.

Prosecuting attorney:  Let us move on to your treatment of larger animals.  When your pet cat had three kittens, did you obey your mother’s instructions not to handle them incessantly?

Me on the stand:  I did not obey her.

Prosecuting attorney:  And what happened to the kittens?

Me on the stand:  Um….They died.

Prosecuting attorney:  I see.  Let us consider your attitude towards sources of air pollution.  You rode a city bus to and from school, did you not?

Me on the stand:  I did.

Prosecuting attorney:  And did you or did you not position yourself in such a way as to smell the exhaust?

Me on the stand:  Yes, I did.

Prosecuting attorney:  And why did you do that?

Me on the stand:  Um….I loved the smell of diesel fumes.

Prosecuting attorney:  I didn’t quite hear that Mr. Brooks.


Prosecuting attorney: Thank you, Mr. Brooks.  Let us move on to your young adulthood.  You maintained your own car, did you not?

Me on the stand: Yes, it was a white Volkswagen beetle.

Prosecuting attorney: Did you change the oil regularly?

Me on the stand: Yes, I took good care of the engine.

Prosecuting attorney: And what did you do with the oil that you drained from the crankcase?

Me on the stand: I poured it onto the ground.

Prosecuting attorney:  Did you not work on your car within 300 yards of an Exxon station?

Me on the stand: I did.

Prosecuting attorney: Did you not know that the Exxon station maintained a special tank for holding used oil for safe disposal?

Me on the stand: I may have known that.

Prosecuting attorney: You say you MAY have known that.  Were you friends with the young mechanic at the Exxon Station?

Me on the stand: I would not say we were close friends.

Prosecuting attorney: Not close friends?  Did you have conversations with him?

Me on the stand: Yes, we had conversations.

Prosecuting attorney:  And what did these conversations concern, the weather?

Me on the stand: No, not the weather.

Prosecuting attorney: What did they concern?  Please be specific.

Me on the stand: Women, sir.

Prosecuting attorney:  Women?  Please be specific.

Me on the stand: Women to whom we were attracted.

Prosecuting Attorney:  So you and this mechanic who was not a close friend carried on conversations about women whose hearts you dreamed of winning.

Me on the stand:  Sort of.  Our sights were set slightly lower.

Defense attorney:  Objection!  Where is this questioning leading?

Prosecuting attorney: I am establishing that the defendant was good friends with the mechanic at the Exxon station, that he was a frequent visitor at the Exxon station, and that he probably knew of its services and facilities, including that of the tank for holding used motor oil.

Judge:  Objection sustained.  Please wrap up your examination of the witness.

Prosecuting attorney: Yes, your honor. In later years, Mr. Brooks, when you lived in San Francisco, were you the first or the last in your neighborhood to recycle?

Me on the stand:  I don’t really know.  But I did no longer enjoy the smell of diesel fumes.

Prosecuting attorney:  Please confine your responses to answers to my questions.  When you lived in San Francisco, did you recycle the cardboard boxes that had held your household items during a housing move?

Me on the stand:  I tried.

Prosecuting attorney: What do you mean, you tried?

Me on the stand:  Well, there were so many cardboard boxes, and they were so big, and the recycling people said they would only take away as much cardboard as would fit in one official plastic box.  That plastic box was only the size of an orange crate.

Prosecuting attorney: So what did you do?

Me on the stand:  I hid the cardboard in bags of trash.  There was no limit to the number of bags they would collect.

Prosecuting attorney: You hid the cardboard in trash bags rather than recycling it.

Me on the stand: Um…yes, that’s correct.

Prosecuting attorney:  No further questions.

Defense attorney:  No questions from the defense, your honor.  The defense rests.

Judge:  With good reason.  Mr. Brooks, I am going to instruct the jury to temper their verdict, given that you have absolutely no ecological self.  I advise you to start reading the Journal of Sustainability Education on a more regular basis.

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