Green

I’m a bit like the Once-ler in Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax:

I’ve sat here and worried

and worried away.

Through the years, while my buildings

have fallen apart,

I’ve worried about it

with all of my heart.

On the off-chance you’re not familiar with the children’s classic The Lorax, I’ll explain:  The Once-ler is a character who, in the process of making thneeds from the tufts of truffula trees, short-sightedly cuts down each and every truffula tree. His greedy ambition to create a product that “everyone needs” results in a wasteland, but he eventually comes to see the error of his ways, and at the end of the story passes the one remaining truffula seed to a young boy with the words, “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not”.

Now, just to be clear 😉 :  I don’t have any buildings which are falling apart, and I haven’t hacked down any trees lately.  I’m not a business-person with a product to sell, never mind one who’s caused the displacement and possible extinction of three species of animals.  Really, on second thought, I’d like to add a qualifier:  the only commonality I share with the Once-ler — by most measures a completely unscrupulous character — is his too-late propensity for deep-seated worry.  His words, “I’ve worried about it with all of my heart” perfectly sum up the way I feel about the environment, however, unlike the Once-ler, I don’t just sit and worry; I actually do something about it.  I recycle, for goodness’ sake!  I grow a vegetable garden!  Wouldn’t that make me more like the Lorax, who “speak(s) for the trees”?  Well, no.  Unfortunately, distancing myself from the Once-ler is hypocritical; it shoves under the rug the uncomfortable fact that I am culpable, that to varying degrees, we all are.  As my fifteen year-old son is fond of telling me, there’s no such thing as no impact:  just existing, simply being a human being on this planet has an impact, and even if I have not personally glumped up a humming-fish pond with gluppity-glupp and schloppity-schlopp (metaphorically speaking, of course), someone — some corporation — has done so on my behalf.  I have lived 47 years on this earth.  I’ve eaten the whole time.  Three, four, sometimes five times a day.  I’ve taken trips with my family (a husband and three children).  We have a home.  We have a vehicle.  It’s not a Prius.  I’ve had an impact…

So, Green:  I see what’s happening with our one beautiful planet.  Scientists now agree climate change isn’t happening in some far distant future where it only (what an understatement!) affects future generations; it’s happening now.  I think of my children, my possible future grand-children, the future we all face, and I wonder, how did it come to this?  How is it we’ve put ourselves on this brink?

Born in 1967 in western Canada, I was a child of the 70s, when the environmental movement was just taking hold. We were warned about endangered species, pollution, acid rain.  We were given the catch-phrase reduce, reuse, recycle.  It’s almost endearing now, thinking back on it:  we were going to save the planet by not littering, by not cutting down too many trees.  It was a message I took to heart:  several years ago I happened upon a picture I had drawn as a young child, a tree with an owl perched on its single branch, hooting in a speech bubble, “Please don’t chop down too many trees and destroy my home!”  Clearly, I was an environmentalist right from the get-go.

Fast forward forty-odd years, and truly — at least for those of us who “care a whole awful lot” — it’s hair-pullingly, mind-numbingly, heart-breakingly exasperating.  I suppose that comes off as intolerant and judgemental, but I can’t help it:  based on our experience this past soggy, windy Earth Day — during which my nine year-old son and I, along with his Cub troop, spent a miserable evening cleaning a roadside in our Ontario town — we haven’t even got the “don’t litter” part down yet.  At times the problems seem so enormous, and there seems to be so little evidence that anyone else cares, that I’d like to simply give up.  Why should I continue to embarrass myself with my homemade curtain-lace produce bags, I wonder, when the woman standing next to me at the grocery store is plastic-bagging a single sweet pepper?  How can one person make a difference against a seeming tide of head-in-the-sand indifference? My fifteen year-old son has had many occasions to tell me — exasperation in his voice — that I cannot single-handedly save the planet.  And while I agree that one can’t, that not even many can, that it’s going to take all of us pulling together (a dismal hope), there’s something in me that has to keep trying, something in me that won’t admit defeat.  Perhaps it’s for his sake alone, to preserve some precarious semblance of optimism in this young man who thinks far too deeply and takes things far too much to heart, that I reply, “Ah, that may be true, but I can still try; I can still do my part”.

That’s mainly what I intend to write about in this blog:  the ways in which my family does their best to live a green and healthy life, and to make a green and healthy home.  I have no illusions that I have something new to share; I’m fairly certain everything I have to say has already been said, somewhere on the internet.  I’m completely aware that if people want to live more sustainable lives, there are plenty of resources elsewhere, that those who want to live green are already doing so, with absolutely no help from me.  And yet…it’s no longer enough for me to quietly clean my house with baking soda and vinegar, to bring my bags to the grocery store, to compost, to — well, I could go on, but then I’d have nothing to blog about 😉 .  There are facts, arguments, and — unfortunately — veritable diatribes swirling around my brain.  They’ve been percolating for the better part of a year, and I think if I don’t get them out, I may just go crazy.  I wish I were joking, but at times I feel I’m in danger of becoming a supermarket vigilante.  Perhaps an occasional diatribe on the internet will de-fuse the ticking time bomb I feel I’ve become; perhaps it will work to prevent the as-yet unacceptable (even if delivered politely) what-the-hell-are-you-thinking-wasting-our-precious-resources tongue-lashing in the grocery store.  So despite the fact that I’m an introvert whose lack of computer skills is epic (among my children), and despite the fact that the internet terrifies me, a naive what-if has taken hold of me:  what if I could inspire just one person to see things differently, to live a greener life?  Shouldn’t I try?  In the words of activist Maggie Kuhn:  speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.  So with that — with shaking hands — I’ll hit publish.

(Explanations for Grey and Gezellig coming soon…)

5 thoughts on “Green

  1. I know just what you mean! When I start feeling despondent, sometimes I reread the story of my big recycling project. It was something I felt I shouldn’t have to do yet felt undeniably called to do, and in the end–despite a big setback–it led to a lasting change in the way one big building handles waste. Remembering that helps me to keep on being a someone who cares a whole awful lot, instead of a someone who gets too fed up to keep caring and thus stops setting a good example.

    I came over here after seeing your comment at This (sorta) Old Life. I subscribed to your blog and look forward to reading more!

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    1. Many thanks for coming over, and for including the link to your recycling project. I’m actually almost speechless: the fact that a person – not a company – would take on something of that magnitude is simply amazing. I’ve pulled recyclables out of garbage before too (because, as you said, it just feels wrong to let it go), but to take on an entire convention’s worth of recycling, to do the rinsing, etc, etc…that’s incredible!!

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      1. I have an enormous amount of respect for garbage collectors! Sometimes my kids will see the trucks and the workers and comment on what a terrible job it must be. I always tell them, 1) it’s an incredibly important job; imagine our city without them! and 2) no matter what job you end up with, the important thing is to do it well – that’s what matters!

        Sorry, by the way, that it’s taken so long for me to get your comment up and to reply. I thought I had changed the settings correctly (to be notified by e-mail when a comment was left), but clearly something is still not working correctly. I think a call for help to BlueHost is in order!

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  2. I love this! Dr. Seuss-ism’s are awesome and so very true! I also will try to do my tiny minimal part for the environment!

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