Friday, April 22, 2005

Earth Day


The Earth, the only planet we'll ever touch, gets its day today, one out of 365. The presidents get a day, the veterans get a day, Columbus gets a day, St. Patrick gets a day, the Earth gets a day. So it goes.

I planted a tree today, a special tree, a Lacey Oak native to my cranny of the planet, so it won't need extra water or special care in the years to come. Plant native! And yes, planting a tree seems the most apropos small symbolic act one can create on Earth Day. But friends, we need a lot more than symbols. Not driving or shopping today or this weekend would also be a good symbolic gesture, though driving and shopping a lot less week to week and month to month would be a better gesture, more than merely symbolic. Flying a lot less, owning less, buying less, investing less... All that new shiny stuff soon becomes the old (and even not so old) and starts to collect dust and begin its inevitable trek towards the landfill.

Everything we see is headed to the landfill, sooner or later - even us. Wal-Mart and the other warehousey "big box" stores are like big staging areas for the landfill. Most of that stuff for sale at "low, LOW prices" now will end up in trash heaps in the blink of a cosmic eye, say two to twenty years. Where are the TV set, the toaster oven and the CAR you owned twenty years ago? Where is the computer you used ten years ago? Where are the hundred or so pounds of trash you generated last week?

Sure, some of us recycle. I myself and a few friends I know are rather fanatical recyclers. We take righteous pride in our recycling efforts - even if we have to drive it somewhere to unload those bottles and cans. We feel morally superior sorting that stuff so we don't have to have quite so many nightmares thinking of OUR refuse mounded up to the sky.

I have long made it a habit to pick up others' recyclables as well, when I walk to the store, when I jog around the neighborhood. I've done it for years.

But here it is Earth Day, when even those who don't suffer such righteous rituals want to feel good about "giving something back to the Earth." So hoards of us will drive to plant sales and nature centers and parks to fly kites and buy balloons and sheepishly act as if we might consider joining the Sierra Club - or renewing our lapsed memberships.

Earth Day, certainly a great idea, and an idea so big it's STILL a drop in the bucket. Why, we'd have to change human nature itself to treat a lot more days like they were really days we'd spend "treading lightly," trading what we voracious humans WANT for what the Earth really needs, which is for us to stop having more than a few carefully chosen children and living well (and more peaceably) without using up half the stuff we collectively use up now.

But then again, as they say, "every little bit helps." That may sound trite, and you might like to think that no little bit you can do is worth it, but it is worth it - every little bit.

So maybe do a little bit more than a little bit. It's the only planet you've got, and like it or not, deep down, some of your own self-respect is tied to how well you treat your home.

Is treading lightly, for REAL, of any REAL interest to you? Or is it just a sappy sentiment relegated to symbolic days like Earth Day?

The simplest answer to all this?

Rest. Relax. Sit outside. Look around. Walk. Walk for transportation. Or ride a bike. That's the ticket. Walk or bike whenever you can. And sit a spell.

Thanks to those who do.


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