Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Earth Day 2009
I read a sentence the other day about why Earth Day doesn't work. I only read the sentence because I'm trying to stay away from corrosively infectious cynicism. It's like giving up looking at the color mustard yellow...it isn't everywhere, but there is enough of it that an effort must be made to avoid it.
Because why shouldn't Earth Day work? Why do we have to assume that people of the world don't care about the planet? Sure, some don't care, but the changes going on at a very basic level show that more than a few are actively caring. Why are there so many solar products? Light bulbs that can lower your electric bill? A swath of netted or cloth bags to replace both paper and plastic bags? Accessable recycling centers in so many cities on the planet? Energy efficient homes both in planning and reality? A list could go on and on, but you get the idea.
The reality is, trying to save the earth is not some passing fad, though there have been faddish moments. This has been going on in one form or another since I was in my teen years and that was back when the earth was still cooling off and it was already apparent we were going to screw it up royally with our 'Gimme gimme's'.
So today, Earth Day, take action, because it's a damn beautiful place and there is no other planet like it. You don't have to save the whole world, you don't have to go to a demonstration. You don't have to knock on doors with pamphlets in your hands. You can do something right in your own home, your own yard, your own neighborhood. It's that simple.
1. Plant one tree. Or one flower. Or one seed. Plant a fruit tree and get all three and more! Then take care of it and let it reward you with its life and beauty and giving into the atmosphere making it easier for you to breathe. Then plant another one. Repeat.
2. Change your light bulbs. The new energy saving light spirals (well, they aren't bulbs, sorry!) are much better than the first ones. They give a more natural light, they are sized more like the old bulb style, better fitting lamps and other light fixtures. They last longer, emit less heat and in general, are just a better deal. Here is how I know. I've lived in this space for almost seven years now. I have spiral lights in every socket but one, a small lamp that just wouldn't fit the old/new spirals. I've NEVER, in the five years or so with the spiral lights, changed any of them. The bulb light I've changed maybe ten times or more. Hopefully there will be a spiral light that will fit the fixture one of these days. But it's always a good reminder of how I don't have to change the other ones.
3. Save water. It's always a good time to shower with a friend! Make sure your gutters are cleaned out, and if you don't have gutters, get some. Get or make a rain barrel to collect rain water. Why do you want to collect rain water? To wash your car, to water your plants, for the day the water goes off, for the day the water is contaminated. This may not work for you if you live in an apartment or where your rain water is nasty from pollution. So help a friend with a house get their gutters fixed up! After all that work, you'll have earned that shower.
4. Plan a garden. Growing your own food is an amazing experience. Sad but true, there really are children (and probably adults) who think milk comes from cartons and chickens from the poultry section. You may not be able to grow a chicken but even in an apartment, you can grow a tomato. People are gardening on the roofs of apartment buildings as well as finding spots for community gardens. Most people have heard about inner city projects where trash lands are being cleaned and transformed. You can do this too. And for those with yards, well...come ON, get busy!
This publication, Seeds of Change, started in 1982. It's still got the good stuff going on.
5. Go out into your world armed with a trash bag (recycle those plastic bags, not just the ones from the market but the clothing store, hardware store or bookstore). There are a bunch of slobs out there, as we all know, tossing the trash of their lives hither and yon with no thought, in either the aesthetic sense or the danger to the world sense. Walking to town, I get to see the good of flowers opening, a horse looking at me, plants changing and growing. I also see woods and water spills and gutter and sidewalks filled with trash. I pick up plastic as much as I can because plastic is the worst offender for not degrading. Now,
I'm not suggesting you pick up something revolting, just the 100's of not dangerous objects we all step over and around every day. When someone sees you picking up trash it makes a silent, powerful statement. Even if 8 out of 10 people ignore that statement, 2 of them are going to either be picking up trash themselves or putting their own trash where it belongs. Try it, it does a body good. And thanks, all of you tourists who tell me about cleaning up the beaches where you walk. You are the kind of visitors we want and need here!
6. Which leads us to my last Suggestion. Turn off your computer. Turn off your television. Stand up and go outside. For a walk, yes. With only one motivation. There should be, at the least, one beautiful place in your world that reminds you why anyone should even bother trying to make a dent in the gigantic task of saving the earth from the damage we've done to her. Keep walking until you find it. Maybe it's not a natural place, maybe it's an outdoor sculpture, or a skyline. It doesn't matter; what matters is that you find your place, the place that makes you care. Because ultimately, that is what Earth Day is really about. Keeping the world we live in right this minute beautiful. If you don't have that place and then you find it, you'll wonder how you lived without it so long. We need beautiful in our lives as much as clean air. And that ain't no tree hugger talk, hear?