posted by Doranna Durgin
Or, to start from the other end of things...this is the tale of the awakening of an Earth Child.
I clearly remember the first Earth Day--my participation, my school's strong participation--and the way I took for granted, even at that age, that being an Earth Child was a groupmind understanding of the way Things Needed To Be. I participated annually in the twenty-mile Walk for Water, as well as environmental bike-a-thons. Never mind organized roadside clean-ups--I went into that mode at the drop of a hat. If I was out stream-walking with friends, I was stream-cleaning. I studied solar energy, started a lifelong habit of pretty much turning the heat off at night, and rode my bike far and wide regardless of weather. In college I had a series of like-minded roommates (I did, after all, end up in the school of environment ed), one of whom ended up homesteading in Alaska while I headed into deep Appalachia to live in a homemade log cabin on a hundred acres of untouched mountainside.
But none of that seemed particularly unusual to me. In the weird, narrow-perspective way we all tend to have, I thought everyone grew up with certain respects and understandings about our stewardship of the Earth, and the necessity thereof. Maybe not to the point of making purses from roadkill (skinned and tanned by yours truly, and oh yes I did) or capturing rattlers from the yard to release deeper in the woods (but really...it made sense at the time). In fact, my Earth Child perspective is so strong--even though health changes have also made major changes in how I act on it--that it's taken a number of hits with clue-by-fours to wake me up.
It started with the bottled water. Mind you, I don't drink the stuff by inclination--if I'm going out somewhere, I fill a sports bottle with water and take it with me. If I'm going to be gone a while, I fill two sports bottles. This is the desert, after all--one doesn't even do errands without the water. So I suppose my Earth Child roots are showing right there. But as someone who puts more into the recycle side of my garbage bin than the yucky side, I was figuring that all those water bottles--the ones not being turned into dog toys--were being reborn as something else.
No. It is to choke. Because some absurd percentage goes straight to the landfill--so many, in fact, that San Francisco's mayor has recently banned bottled water at city agencies. Personally, I think a derth of public recycling receptacles contributes greatly to this situation, but that probably just speaks to the larger groupmind perspective...just as damning if not more so than the individual failures.
Other small things began to hammer home in recent years. Because I've been with like-minded people for so long, it's only recently that I've seen different patterns of use. Consumerism--the kind that buys things with no intent to care and cherish--is so much more alive and well than I ever realized, simply because it was beyond my comprehension that people would make those choices about their world. Even after I saw it, I resisted, I mentally kicked and screamed...and finally I acknowledged.
But I wouldn't be writing this blog if there hadn't been a last straw...and oh, boy, was there.
I read an article in Newsweek about a woman who experimented with Freeganism (not for the sake of the recycling philosophies involved, but for the sake of writing an article about it). It's an interesting piece, outlining a city culture my rural self had no idea existed, and, diary-fashion, it shows the rude awakening the modern, excessively consumeristic (yes I made that up) author had when changing her ways to pursue her article. But it wasn't even the body of the article that got to me--any culture shock is going to be profound, and I wouldn't be the first author who loves to play with that theme just because of the rich nature of it.
Nope, it was at the end, where the author was patting herself on the back for the things that had stuck with her from her experience; the significant ways she's changed habits. Pat, pat, pat--because now she turns the lights out. Now she turns her computers off overnight. Now she doesn't buy 12 pairs of shoes in the fall, but restricts herself to choosing one new pair. And while she was going "pat, pat, pat," I was thinking, "Holy cow! She did that stuff before? She didn't even think about it? She just lived that way?" and feeling a little sick, because suddenly I realized my Earth Child self was dated and outmoded and left behind by the massive surge of the Gimme Children.
But hey, world...wake up! Embrace your inner Earth Child! If you treat every drop of water as though you had to pump it, and every moment of electricity as though you had to generate it yourself, and every consumable item as though you had to make it...maybe one day the people on this planet--even those in so-called "civilized countries"--won't all be doing just that. It doesn't mean being perfect--heaven knows I'm not playing the part I wish I could these days--but it does mean knowing that every little bit counts. If we're all going to go "pat, pat, pat" about going green...let's make it real.
'Scuse me. Gotta go turn down the heat...and get out my winter night hat!