Single-Serving Scream

Untitled, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 11x14

Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 11×14

FEW RECENT INVENTIONS are as frivolous and wasteful as the single-serving coffee maker. One brand we found washed up on the beach far away from human traffic along the outer banks of the Cape Cod National Seashore last week had five parts: the outer plastic shell, the peel-away foil lid, and a heavy paper filter sandwiched between two plastic mesh disks. All for a single cup of coffee.

For what? Are we so busy and important that we cannot spare the few extra minutes to brew a cup using one of the myriad conventional coffee machines and systems? Is our fix for caffeine (or simply a hot drink, since many of these are decaffeinated) so urgent, our narcissism so great?

It is no wonder that most of the rest of the world is skeptical or incredulous when Americans preach about air pollution, water quality, endangered species, or climate change. “Seriously?” they ask. “You want us to take responsibility for curbing unneeded garbage and waste when you proliferate senseless products like this?”

You would be doing better by the environment by pitching your single-serving coffee machine into the ocean rather than using it, adding these foul cups to the landscape or landfills one by one, drip by drip.

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Dune View, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 11x14

Dune View, acrylic on canvas, 11×14

THE SINGLE-SERVING coffee cup carcasses pale in numbers, of course, next to the empty plastic water bottles glistening along the beach. Aside from the underlying deceit of these things—no safer than most tap water, and astronomically more expensive—the bottles (and plastic bags, another common site on this remote stretch of sand) are deadly to sea turtles and other marine life, which mistake them for jellyfish, part of their natural diet. Once they ingest a plastic bottle, they die.

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Untitled, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

ON MOTHER’S DAY we found more than one dozen deflated Mylar balloons along a one-mile stretch of beach, and several more scattered across the dunes in the days after. Many of them read “Happy Mother’s Day,” a sad irony given their ultimate destination, littering the surface of Mother Earth.

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 Perspectives from a week in Boris’s shack in the Provincetown dunes, May 11 to May 18, 2013.
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4 thoughts on “Single-Serving Scream

  1. I love the large untitled acrylic—those winter hills.

    As to the single-serving coffee maker, it does make me scream. For years I would grind my coffee beans by hand, put them in a simple old-world coffee maker, set the latter on the flame, and voilà! Now I’ve graduated to an electric grinder. But coffee-making is still a brief, simple, and pleasurable morning ritual.

    • Thanks Henry. I am a daily coffee drinker and have tried most of the other options over the years, from percolator to French press to Mr. Coffee. It is not as if we do not have good alternatives to these dreadful new machines!

  2. Thank you for being so outspoken, Americans need to hear more of the same. My niece has the single cup server and it makes a wonderful cup of coffee; I have a coffee press, a brilliant invention designed due to scientists using their chemical flasks as a brewing pot. It’s an upside-down coffee pot, the grounds go to bottom with the hot water on top, then you press the permanent press down though the water. No waste and lasts forever

    I love your paintings, they remind me of Van Gogh. I’m reading Van Gogh, The Life; it is very well written and covers all the nooks and crannies of his short but productive life. Have you read it? Peggy

    • Thank you for weighing in on the coffee issue, Peggy (and for the flattering comments!). I have not read the Van Gogh book, but will put it on my list, perhaps for my next trip to the dunes in June.

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