- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 5, 2007

Sheryl Crow has taken a stand for the environment, and it has a lot of folks engaging in potty talk.

No, really. Miss Crow recently set forth an idea to save the environment by regulating America’s toilet-paper usage on the belief it somehow contributes to the apparent trend toward global warming.

However, what struck me about the entertainer’s recent comment on this subject was that Miss Crow, being childless, probably doesn’t realize there’s a whole segment of the population that already doesn’t use toilet paper.

That segment? Children.

In case you missed it, the singer and activist proposed “a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting.” She thinks one square should suffice, “except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required.”

Miss Crow visited 12 college campuses on a biodiesel bus for a Stop Global Warming College Tour to raise awareness of this environmental issue. Apparently, she’s under the misapprehension that there is anyone under the age of 25 who doesn’t already know about global warming.

Almost by rote, even my youngest children can tell you that global warming is caused by greenhouse gases, and if you ask them what causes greenhouse gases, they’ll say, “We do.”

Hmmm. Awareness doesn’t seem to be the issue.

Oversimplification? Pat answers to complex questions? “Pop curriculum” in today’s science classrooms?

Yes, yes and yes — but awareness, no.

Now we learn via Miss Crow’s blog that reducing our dependence on toilet tissue could save trees, the much-needed producers of oxygen, which in turn would stave off the rising mercury that measures the earth’s temperature. (Or is it the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere? I never get that right. I guess I’m not young enough to understand.) She hasn’t quite worked out the science, but she’s pretty sure it would help.

Don’t even get the singer going on the issue of paper napkins, which she sees as supremely wasteful. To combat the horrific abuse of trees for the production of paper napkins, she has designed a line of shirts with removable sleeves for the purpose of wiping one’s face and even one’s runny nose. The sleeves could be washed and reused.

Again, Miss Crow’s idea seems to suggest a lack of experience with an entire generation. The people in my house don’t use paper napkins unless I remind them. Plus, no one would use a sleeve to wipe his face if that was its intended purpose. The whole reason to use a sleeve is that you’re not supposed to.

In Miss Crow’s environmentally conscious lifestyle, I guess I should give up teaching table manners and personal hygiene in favor of cooling the earth, but let me just say: yuck.

Also, no.

Sorry Miss Crow, much as you’d like me to jump on your biodiesel bandwagon and reduce my family’s environmental impact in the world, I just don’t think these suggestions are likely to make a dent. At least, I hope they don’t make a dent around my house.

As I said, Miss Crow has no children, so she probably can’t appreciate the unpleasant yet necessary measures some of us take to get people to use toilet paper in the first place. (Moreover, the reason we know some of our children don’t bother with toilet tissue is because they also don’t consistently flush the commode. I guess Miss Crow would applaud their water-conservation habits, whereas I think this is a problem for the environment — my environment, anyway).

What’s really important is that the mere mention of Miss Crow’s low-impact potty proposal pretty much grossed out everyone in my home. Presumably she was out to make a viable suggestion and get folks to think. What she got us thinking about was more hand washing.

I don’t want to make a blanket pronouncement about celebrities and political causes, but this sort of thing does remind us that the relationship between popularity and perspicacity isn’t always obvious. Maybe this is a sweeping generalization, but the mere fact someone has recorded a music album or starred in a hit film or TV show doesn’t engender a whole lot of confidence in his or her analytical skills. To wit: Miss Crow’s vague science on conserving the Charmin, even if she does say her suggestion was really just a joke.

Certainly, it’s Miss Crow’s right to use her fame to garner attention for the issues about which she’s passionate. Overall, though, it seems celebrity activists reveal a certain … let’s say, simplicity … that maybe doesn’t help their causes much.

Anyway, thanks but no thanks on the toilet-paper thing. There aren’t enough plies on even the thickest roll of ultrasoft, megacushy toilet tissue to compensate for the several sheets Miss Crow says we can do without, and that’s all I’m going to say about the subject.

Here’s what I’m waiting for: A celebrity who’s willing to speak out on behalf of toilet flushing. I can just imagine how much cleaner our world would be if some famous, Hollywood “A” lister would put together a cross-country concert tour to encourage the consistent, considerate use of the courtesy flush.

The Flush for Friendship Tour — with potty stops every couple of hours. Hey, it could work.

Just imagine all those grateful moms across America.

Columnist Marybeth Hicks, a wife of 20 years and mother of four children, lives in the Midwest. She is the author of “The Perfect World Inside My Minivan — One Mom’s Journey Through the Streets of Suburbia,” a compilation of her columns. She uses her column to share her perspective on issues and experiences that shape families nationwide. Visit her Web site (www.marybeth hicks.com) or send e-mail to [email protected]

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