Sunday, September 5, 2010

Out of sight, out of mind

Out of sight, out of mind is a statement that I have heard many times from many different people throughout my life. In most instances whoever was making this statement was using it in a jovial manner. It wasn’t like anything serious was put out of sight, at least not in the context of which I remember; but none the less, when hearing this statement come from some person’s mouth, one typically just chuckles along and nothing serious is further discussed. I mean who would really just shove something from their sight in order to forget about it? Especially if was an act or an instant that was serious enough to burn an unforgettable memory into the mind; it would then be mentally impossible to “actually” forget a situation, an action, or an instance…right? I can see if one were to put an unimportant inanimate object out of sight and eventually forget where it was or that it was even in existence, that would be out of mind; but out of sight, out of mind surely cannot work for memories of an event and/or actions, especially if the event/actions were ones involving immoral decision making.

Now, I know that people can forget traumatic events that they have experienced-Regression- would be the psychological explanation of such; but regression, by definition, occurs when a negative event/action is experienced, not one of joy or extreme happiness; regression also happens unconsciously, that is that the person in question does not “will” the negative experience away consciously, or by choice, but that the unconscious mind takes over because the event was so emotionally/mentally traumatic, it tricks the brain into forgetting it ever happened. This got me thinking then that someone cannot, by conscious effort, put a conscious immoral decision, out of sight…or out of mind.

Now, all of this thinking about out of sight, out of mind was stimulated by something I learned in my Environmental Geology class. We learned earlier this week the great “Love Canal” tragedy. In late 1800’s The U.S. government began building a canal between Canada and New York; we know this area currently as Niagara Falls. In the 1890’s the canal was finished and was intended to be used as a generator for hydroelectricity, but unfortunately it went unused, why I do not know. For the better part of 30 years this area of land was “out of sight, out of mind.” But in the 1940’s and the early 1950’s, companies in the area were in need of a toxic dumping site, and seeing as how this area hadn’t been in use for some time, decided to make it their dumping ground. During this time, 20,000 tons of toxic waste was dumped there. In 1953, the company that was then managing the site donated it the city of Niagara Falls. With the wonderful donation made by the company a wonderful little community popped up. You know, one of those 1950’s residential communities, with churches and schools. Everything was swell. Then in the mid 1970’s this area had record rain fall and caused the grounds to become extremely saturated, this in turn caused toxic and chemical wastes to begin oozing…literally oozing out of the ground. Can you imagine, sliding down the slide at the elementary school and landing in a puddle of toxic waste?

With this new discovery of toxic waste, the community’s health as a whole began plummeting. Cancer spread like wildfire. Now, I know that other instances have happened in different places, we’ve all seen Erin Brockovich, but it was with this lecture in my class that really got me thinking about out of sight, out of mind. Now, I know that back in the early 20th century, the knowledge of toxic waste and it’s affects on human life weren’t what they are now, but with the knowledge that we now know, why is this still occurring? What is it about our environment that most people think is out of sight? It’s amazing that incidences like this one can happen, over and over again, and lessons are not learned. This was just one instance in one country, in one state, in one town. Now, multiply that on a global scale. It’s stories like this one that really make me wonder how our earth has even sustained itself for this long with us bombarding it with waste, trash, and carbon; especially when companies, who aren’t suffering from regression issues, dump toxins into a lake, stream, or the ground itself. I do what I can to help the environment. We recycle, we try to be as carbon conscious as possible, and we attempt to spread the word; but unless this starts becoming a way of life for millions of individuals, we will always have the mentality of “Out of site, out of mind.”

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