Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Earth Day ... a curse, then a candle lit
My Earth Day comment is...isn't it already too late? Is all this talking just jawboning to make ourselves feel less guilty? Do we just not care enough to turn away from Facebook long enough to notice that the warblers are declining, way declining? Why is life now completely tied to consumerism? Are pictures of hapless polar bears enough to spark enough action to save the planet?? If everyone loves to hike in the outdoors so much, why do we also have to have the latest phone while we're out there?
Maybe I just need another cup of coffee [fear not; it's Fair Trade], but the hoo-hah about the 40th anniversary of Earth Day tends to make me rather cynical. Since I qualify as an aging codger, I have seen the enthusiasm for "saving the environment" wax and wane, with various presidents, world supplies of oil, levels of affluence, and of course the fluctuating amounts of self-involvement each of us possesses. I remember thinking, "Why are cars getting bigger again?" after the 70's fuel crisis passed. I recall wondering why we now had to buy disposable pens, lighters and razors when refillable ones seemed just fine. But so what? The subway used to be a nickel.
I have no pretense to claim I've done anything at all, by any stretch of any imagination, anything, apart from donating to the heavy hitters and obscure causes, not using a hairdryer and never fertilizing my lawn. And to boot, I still read a dead-tree newspaper. So I'm absolutely no better than the next guy. But to me that's a clue. All of us next guys are caught in the world and the life we know--and it's very hard to break away, given the imperatives of everyday living. Gotta get to work. Gotta eat. Gotta care for the family. And how can any of us can really do that stuff differently enough to make a radical difference, a difference extensive enough to halt the planetary carnage surrounding us? We can't all retreat from modern life, eat only local food, afford snazzy hybrid cars, or bicycle everywhere. How many people are willing to let the family line die out? How do we refuse excess packaging, reform coal plants, protect swamps from developers, ban poisons? How do we deny the developing world the life we've enjoyed for decades, now that it is within their grasp? How do we do that?!
Ok, ok, so I'll go eat an organic carrot instead. But really, how can that carrot be enough? I didn't buy anything plastic this week. So what? I already live in a densely-settled city with mass transit. I take short showers and live without a/c . [Well, I am nearing 60, and monster heat waves get me down, so I do have a window unit or two.] But, so what?
Better to light a single candle? This post is admittedly cursing the darkness, and I know this does nothing to improve things or even make me feel better. Must try harder. Must fight cynicism and despair. Must believe that things can improve, bit by bit. Think....
Ospreys and eagles have come back. Can't smoke indoors anymore. The so-called "Climategate" scientists have been cleared by the investigators in England. Architects nowadays often take migrating birds into consideration when designing buildings. With any luck, solar costs will come down. In Denmark, they're figuring out how to burn trash for energy. Bike lanes are sprouting up in cities. Recycling, however limited, is catching on. And community action continues to improve things on a smaller scale, and can stave off despair plus make life better right in our own back yards. [There is an example right in my own life, where a stupid shopping mall was stopped from destroying a last unbuilt area near my mother's house. The bad economy helped, but intrepid local residents saw to it that the Ohio EPA did its job--what a gobsmacking victory that was!] Lots of other examples come to mind in my less surly moments. Oh, yes, and I can still hear spring peepers in the Berkshires.
It is to be hoped, however slim that hope may be, that the 40th anniversary of Earth Day won't be bungled as a learning opportunity. As for me, I am going out to plant today, buy nothing, pick up trash, and use my stuff over and over again until it disintegrates. Hey, I'm no frickin' saint, but it's a start.
To quote the dumbest chant I can remember from the 70's on the subject, a chant that means nothing really, but lingers in the mind:
Monday, April 12, 2010
Monday, April 05, 2010
Goodbye to All That
Yeah, it's a cliche, but it's a good one.
Here's the only sign of plant life in suburban Cincinnati, late
March. These are the almost-blooming forsythias
over the septic tank basin along the road, at
the Childhood Homestead. My parents
may not have been gifted landscapers,
but at least from the house we didn't have
to stare at our in-ground waste disposal system.