Earth Protectors

…was the name of a more-or-less pretend group I wanted to form as a little kid. My mom started us young, I suppose. She has always been concientious of why we buy things and where those multitude of things go. I think all three of us kids were cloth diapered (twin brothers!), I recall a milk man with glass bottles, and rare clothing purchases (think a multipack of shorts in various colors from Caldor that my skinny ass wore from like 4-8th grade). Now I don’t know how much of this was practical for saving money vs. walking the talk, maybe a bit of both. My memory is fuzzy at this point, funny what one remembers and why. I doubt many other families would’ve accidentally fumigated themselves with chopped up cauliflower from a snack cooler while driving (instead of flying) across country to Colorado. That turd of a raw vegetable, memorably, was pitched off the side of the highway somewhere in the rediculously long state of Pennsylvania.

I ate it all up, though, devouring kids books on Earth Day, planting trees, thrilled to visit a recycling center on a school field trip. I wish more young kids were spotlighted at town board meetings, to push for things that they’re passionate about. To ask the tough questions of -why not?- because they haven’t had the life experience of crushing defeats or constant NIMBY threats and can imagine even simple projects, like a town compost, taking off.

There are tons of articles about the process of waste disposal, and why change occurs in that arena (the US has a -lot- of land, and waste is cheap). I’ll save my thoughts on that topic for later posts. As I’ve moved around to city after city in the Northeast US, I managed to accidentally choose places that were a bit ahead of the US curve in terms of sustainability. Yet, I always had the drive to do something a bit more, just not grand enough.

Little teeny things: while in NYC, I dragged my plastic bags home on the Metro North to bring to a CT grocery store, because NY didn’t recycle bags yet. Leave-no-trace camping. In CT, the Nature Conservancy hosted weekend retreats for developers and land owners to guide sustainable practices in land management. Invasive species mapping and removal. Cleaner diesel emissions research. In Boston, I worked with a group on how to change behaviors on a campus-scale to tweak energy useage in large buildings. Alternative energy basic research. Built a town park. Cloth diapered my babies. Minimal Leslie Knopp type stuff. With lots of trees, shrubs, and flowers planted along the way.

I’m a chemist by training, and I cringed quite a bit when the chemical reaction at hand asked for not so great organic solvents who’s vapors vent out the hood into the atmosphere. Once you start learning more, there are even MORE questions you don’t have the answers for. There are all kinds of ways to enact changes, like supporting sustainability coordinators at the town and city level. Plant a ton of trees on the barren plateaus from mountaintop removal mines dotting West Virginia. Be the squeaky wheel rather than the few who oppose a windmill. Stop waiting for the 10 year analysis or to see what the neighbors are doing. Ultimately, we all know what is helpful and what is more harmful. Be honest with yourself about purchases or actions. Be the weirdo with chopped cauliflower in your cooler.

Crowley grabbed Aziraphale’s arm. ‘You know what happened?’ he hissed excitedly. ‘He was left alone! He grew up human! He’s not Evil Incarnate or Good Incarnate, he’s just … a human incarnate—” 

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

I take it for granted that the underlying guidance by which I live my life is that the Earth is precious. That there -are- dire consequences to human action and inaction. Even though it’s human nature to reach for the stars, we have a responsibility to the next generation to maintain a world that has clean air and water for all living things, and maybe over our own ease and comfort. Can we prove that things have changed for the better since the 1970s, though it’s hard to beat the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra?

If this resonates with you, start with the children, listen to them when they speak, and make the big things happen in your back yard. Because why not?

Earth Day 2020 *Bee Balm, Echinacea, Magnolia
Image by @purpleglassesFLDE

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