Climate change is real. Glaciers are melting, the permafrost in Alaska is thawing and wildfires from Florida to California start earlier, last longer and consume more and more acres. The recent heatwave in India killed more than 100 people when the temperature reached a stomach-churning 122 degrees.
Some folks stubbornly cling to the notion that today’s climate catastrophes are part of a natural cycle, but I prefer to blame the Swiffer®.
Indulge me as I explain the logic. Petroleum, the oozy-woozy miracle that fuels our cars and serves as the raw material for the plastic IV lines that can save my life, is also a curse that is fouling our air, land and water.
Like addicts everywhere, we got ourselves hooked when oil was cheap, abundant and easy to extract. But now that oil is becoming increasingly expensive, scarce and dangerous to harvest, we show no signs of changing our junkie ways.
Which leads us to the Swiffer®. Ponder for a moment, if you will, the amount of fossil fuels required to manufacture, distribute and market the Swiffer duster®. Think of the energy used to light those air-conditioned superstores we drive to en masse, on whose shelves the heavily packaged Swiffer® duster resides until you but it. Imagine the gasoline it takes to bring those cute little Swiffers® home from the store.
Get the picture?
Then there is the escalation when Proctor and Gamble realized the Swiffer duster® was a big hit.Additions to the Swiffer® family now include:
- the Wet Jet® , a (mercury-laden-battery)-powered gizmo that spews what appears to be antifreeze on your floors, which the machine then sops up with microfiber pads,
- the Swiffer sweeper® (which boasts an extra-large version) and
- the Swiffer sweeper/vac® , which many people buy in addition to a budget-busting Dyson® that burns gazillions of electrons to do what a carpet beater and broom used to do just fine.
Then, just in case we are not squandering enough petroleum, P&G has added Swiffer Dust & Shine®, a Pledge®-like product scented with three Febreze® fragrances, in case the kids playing in your home have not yet inhaled their required quota of dubious chemicals. (And we wonder why so many frogs today have three eyes and a leg growing out of their ear?)
But the fault lies not in the Swiffer® itself but in a culture where such products are considered a great idea. (A post on Squidoo calls the Swiffer® the “best cleaning invention of the 20th and 21st century [sic].”)
There was a time when people used worn-out t-shirts and towels, cut into strips, as cleaning cloths. They were stored in the rag bag hidden in the closet. You would grab one, maybe cut it to just the right size, and then dunk it in a little vinegar and water if you wanted a pleasant scent and a nice shine. After laundering many times, the holiest cloths would finally be sacrificed for cleaning paint brushes or shining shoes before being discarded.
I think of my grandmother, who survived the Depression by working to support her daughters as a cleaning woman in downtown office buildings in Cleveland. She insisted that the invention of the paper towel was a sure sign we would follow the Roman empire into decline.
If we had stopped at the paper towel, we might have had a chance. The Swiffer® may be a sign that it is too late, because other cultures that still use rags instead of petroleum-dense cleaning products lust for the chance to live as we do now. So even more wars will be fought among nations contesting to secure the oil needed to make more Swiffers®.
I have nightmares about a day in the not-too-distant future when I am lying there in a hospital bed, in dire need of IV drugs for dengue fever because Michigan is now the tropics, and a nurse will whisper in my ear, “Sorry, but we don’t have any more IV lines. We used up all the petroleum on making Swiffers® instead.”
Is there any doubt that the End Times are near?