It's Not My Problem This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

   I like to spend a lot of time in my basement. Whenever I want to get away from the world, take a break from reality, I go downstairs and relax in front of the television set. Being able to unwind down there is very important and beneficial; in a way the basement supports and sustains me.

But the basement is also one of my eight-year-old brother's favorite rooms. I don't like it when he joins me downstairs: I feel like he is invading my privacy and spoiling the bliss. He often plays down there, alone or with friends, building Lego metropoles, competing in a Matchbox car Grand Prix, and disassembling and reassembling his electronic toys. He never cleans up after himself , Lego's, little metal cars, and pieces of toys are left strewn across the floor like the remains of a nuclear disaster. That really annoys me. I'm not compulsively neat, but I do not appreciate having to dance across the floor just to reach the television without a Lego implanting itself in my bare foot.

What do I do about it? If anything, I complain to my parents. They agree that yes, he should clean up the basement. They tell him to pick up his mess, but not very strictly. He doesn't do a very good job, if he does it at all. I notice this, and maybe complain again, but don't consider cleaning it up myself. If it bothers me so much, I should clean up the basement, but I don't. I think: "It's not my mess; I didn't make it, he did; so why should I have to clean it up?" The truth is, I have often contributed a little to the mess, but don't want to admit it. The basement remains a mess.

Americans' unwillingness to clean up the environment is similar to my unwillingness to clean up the basement. The environment is essential in supporting and sustaining human life because of all the natural resources it provides. Also, undisturbed nature, far from the chaos and clamor of civilization, can be a calming and invigorating escape for us. But many businesses are taking over what was once open space, an invasion that we do not like. Some of them dump waste into oceans, lakes, and rivers, release harmful gases into the atmosphere, and/or manufacture environmentally-harmful products. They never clean up after themselves , water-pollution, smog, and overflowing landfills result. That really annoys us.

Many of us are not extreme environmentalists, but we do not appreciate having to deal with the many environmental problems. But what do we do about it? If anything, we complain to the government. The government agrees that yes, businesses should help clean up. It acts slowly, reprimanding businesses, maybe eventually passing a few ineffective laws. The businesses don't do a very good job, if they do anything at all. We notice this, and maybe complain again, or just grumble to ourselves a little. We should clean it up ourselves, but don't. We think: "It's not our problem; we didn't cause it, they did; so why should we have to clean it up?" The truth is, we are also to blame for the destruction of the environment, but don't want to admit it. The state of the environment continues to worsen.

The environment is everyone's problem, because everyone is harming it. If we keep expecting everyone else to solve the problems, the pollution and destruction will continue. Just like the basement: if I decide that it's not my problem, except to complain and blame my little brother, it won't improve. We all have to take responsibility , me, us, my little brother, businesses, the higher authorities, everyone. I know I can clean up my basement; let's see if we can clean up our environment. n

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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