April 22 marks the 47th time Earth Day has been celebrated in America. Our country was just beginning to warm up (pun intended) to the notion that human behavior has impacts on the new trend that the coming year will be hotter than the year just past with sea levels continuing to rise and the crazy extremes in weather events. What’s different this year is that those small steps forward are being thrown away (as I type). Just a few months ago there was some comfort in the idea that our government was beginning to acknowledge and create some measures to stop/reduce the impacts of climate change. That “luxury” is no longer relevant.
Has the seriousness of our situation gotten your attention yet? What is your threshold to incite concern and/or action?
We now have even more opportunity and incentive to make some personal changes and different choices that put our money where our mouths are. What’s it gonna take? If every day is lived like it’s Earth Day, we could meet each day with awareness and a willingness to make changes in our behaviors that are wasteful (for example). Since we can’t recycle our way out of the direction we humans are driving the planet, it is up to you and me. Re-thinking most every thing is a necessary daily mantra to exercise. Making connections to the planet (our home), to our surroundings, the plants, trees, animals who are our neighbors is a good first step. Not all of us crave nor feel grounded or drawn to “nature” even though without it, we would not exist. Try making it through a few minutes without clean air or water or food.
When we connect the dots we discover critical relationships between things and humans. Like: the food we eat, where it comes from, how it was grown, conditions of the people producing what we are buying. This goes for ALL the stuff we consume. It’s easier to blame someone else for not setting policies that legislate “sustainability.” At this time the “right choices” more than ever need to be made by every one of us. There’s never been a better place to start and our current reality is that it is up to each of us to contribute to a climate that could sustain all of us for today and future generations.
It is high time we do what we can do, every day, and then we get up again and see how far we can stretch to “be the change we wish to see in the world” (Ghandi). The question is: What can I do? What am I willing to do today? Do I have my “ready kit” in my backpack, purse, car or bike bag? Have I got a water bottle, drinking cup for to-go drinks, bags inside of bags for shopping? What else do you need a supply of to avoid making garbage?
Previous WasteNot columns have discussed many of these topics. It boils down to, “what am I willing to change?” As a country we spend more time flying on airplanes and driving our cars than ever before. We jaunt across the state, across the country, across continents, sometimes for a day or a weekend. Whose to say what’s too much carbon to generate? Just you. It’s between you and you, but if we don’t take note of our expenditures — financial, emotional, environmental, physical — then we run out of money, we become exhausted, just like the environment. We can’t just keep withdrawing funds from our bank account without replenishing. That metaphor works for many things.
“The Zen master would say if you want to change government, you have to aim at changing corporations, and if you want to change corporations, you first have to change the consumers. Whoa, wait a minute! The consumer? That’s me. You mean I’m the one who has to change?” (Yvon Chouinard).
I raise my glass in honor of humanity and our abilities (more than any other creature) to re-think, re-tool and make changes. Survival for all beings are counting on us.
Mother Earth will be fine — she will implode for a few million years and re-invent herself without us if we are unsuccessful.
Risa Buck has served on the Ashland Conservation Commission and in waste prevention education for more than a decade. You may reach her through firstname.lastname@example.org. Find past WasteNot columns online at bit.ly/rbwastenot.