Put a Lid on It
I have a confession to make.
I have a closet of lids in my studio. That’s right. Lids. Bags of them. Boxes, too. Metal lids, plastic lids, big lids, little lids, red lids, blue lids.
I have an explanation, too, though I do not know if it is sufficient to keep me from being labeled a hoarder.
Way back at some now indeterminate number of years in the past, I had the idea of creating an environmental art piece made entirely of lids. So I started saving lids. And I convinced Steve to do the same—and our houseguests. Year after year, the bottles and jars would go to recycling and their lids into my closet. One bag, two bags, I lost count—but I didn’t stop.
Now it’s a habit. I don’t think about it much anymore, except for that nagging little question in the back of my mind: “What am I going to do with all those lids?”
I’ve discussed it on numerous occasions with my friend and fellow artist, Sondra Arkin, albeit in a rather lighthearted “what if we” kind of way. I’ve thought about covering a huge globe with them, as a statement to what we are doing with the planet. Or using them to create a photo display, or completely dressing someone in lids and photographing them rising from a lake of lid trash like a radioactive swamp monster in a 1950’s sci-fi creature feature. We’ve contemplated making that figure a drag queen, mostly so we could make a three foot high beehive out of plastic lids—as Sondra seems inordinately excited about constructing.
Steve was dubious of the whole process, I think I should say, but as he always did, remained faithfully supportive as long as he lived. One day I will make something rise from that mound of trash. Suggestions are welcome.
The more pressing question for us right now is: “What are we going to do to save our planet and ourselves?” I could rephrase that: “What are we going to do to save our planet from ourselves?”
On the surface, that question addresses our physical environment—climate change, pollution of our air, water, the unending sea of waste we generate. But finding solutions to our human problems calls us to examine our spiritual environment, our relational environment, and our emotional environment, as well.
We will not solve the world’s environmental problems while we are fearful of those who are different from us, by sowing discord and distrust in the world, or by threatening one another with violence and creating chaos in every situation. I’m talking on a global scale, sure, but simple lessons can be learned from the way we interact with the people who live on our street and in our neighborhoods. Be it big government or a local homeowner’s association, we respond better to honesty, to compromise, to creativity, and to working together to find solutions—all of which seem to be gasping for a last breath in the toxic atmosphere of today’s politics.
My experience at CAMP Rehoboth confirms my belief that change starts at the local level. From the beginning we have relentlessly preached the gospel of “room for all.” We did that by building bridges throughout the community and the state, and by collaborating with a multitude of other organizations.
Over all those years, CAMP Rehoboth has been guided by the same mission and purpose. Contained within the words of that statement—the one that appears on the second page of every single issue of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth—is a call to support “…community organizations, recycling programs, [and] environmental projects….”
We have, over the years, participated in various environmental projects, but it has not been our main focus. We have recycled for decades, and we do a great job with cardboard, but I constantly find myself digging plastic and glass bottles out of the trash at the community center and moving them into the recycling cans. We have never satisfactorily figured out a way to properly recycle at big events.
We still have work to do, and as the CAMP Rehoboth Board of Directors and staff work together with volunteers and community members on our new 2018-19 Strategic Plan, environmental issues will need to be a part of the discussion. They have to be—not only because it’s missional for us, but because of our coastal location and the ever-increasing intensity of storms and rising water levels associated with climate change.
More importantly we need to shift our thinking outside of recycling as a thing we only do with bottles and cans, and turn it into a more efficient, less cluttered philosophy for making decisions about everything we do.
I say that while looking at the clutter in my office at this busy time of the year. I say that with images of my attic and my studio in mind. I hate waste, and I don’t like throwing things away that might be put to a better purpose, but I do know I am happier and more productive when there is order in my life—and in our workplaces.
Order alone, however, does not solve our problems: creativity plays an equally important role. The goal for us here at CAMP Rehoboth is to channel the creativity of our community, and—without stifling it—manage it in an orderly fashion. That should be the goal of our government as well.
The politicization of climate change has forced people to take sides, and in the process we seem to have lost the ability to use our collective creativity to work together to find solutions.
I suppose it is easier to simply deny the existence of a problem. No problem, no solution needed. Nothing to worry about. Go back to sleep.
Even for those of us who care deeply about the environment and climate change, the task of deciphering what we should do about it is a daunting one. I’ve often wondered if I recycle religiously because it makes me feel less guilty about not knowing what environmental damage is being done by the manufacturing of the products I love to use or the machines that make my life easier.
Personally, I am deeply saddened that our country is giving up its leadership on global environmental issues, but that will not stop me or CAMP Rehoboth from doing what we can to help.
An art project made of lids can make a statement about the way I feel, but it’s going to take all of us working together to “put a lid on” the waste and pollution and population problems our world is facing. ▼
Murray Archibald is an artist, CAMP Rehoboth Co-Founder, and longtime President of the CAMP Rehoboth Board of Directors. He is currently serving as CAMP Rehoboth Interim Executive Director and Editor in Chief of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth. Email Murray.