Friday, April 20, 2018

Insight: Earth Day is not always about saving the Earth by Lorraine Glowczak

I was six years old in 1971 when Keep America Beautiful, Inc. produced its anti-pollution campaign. It was probably the best-known and most guilt-inducing public service announcement in history. If this isn’t ringing a bell – it’s the commercial staring actor, Iron Eyes Cody as a Native American shedding a single tear at the sight of a trash-filled and smoke laden landscape.
The words in the ad go something like this: “Some people have a deep, abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country and some people don’t,” states a narrator in a baritone voice. Apocalyptic music follows as someone tosses a bag of half-eaten fast food out the window of a passing car. It lands and scatters at the actor’s feet. He looks forlorn into the camera as the tear rolls down his cheek. The narrator continues, “People start pollution. People can stop it.”

Without a doubt, this commercial made a massive impact on my six-year-old psyche and I became an environmental activist – well – at least for an hour after I saw the ad and until something else caught my attention. Eventually the commercial stopped running and although I never became an activist in the real sense of the word, you never caught me and never will catch me throwing trash out the window of my car. That tear really made its mark on me. Not only that, I do love the natural environment that Maine has to offer, and I would like to preserve it as best as I can.

Sunday, April 22, we celebrate the 38th anniversary of Earth Day. Whether you have been deemed an official “tree hugger” or not, we all have a certain responsibility to the environment if we wish to maintain the life we have now. 

It really does not matter whether you are a conservationist, or you simply enjoy the Maine outdoors, it behooves us all to assume a certain obligation to not mess up our own back yards. Our actions do not have to be big, profound, or impressive (but if they are, contact us and we’ll write about you!).They can be simple everyday actions that work within our everyday lives.

One small action I started a little over a month ago happens during my morning run. I’ll take a trash bag with me and pick up garbage thrown along the side of the road. The down side to this small action is that I stop every two or three seconds and the trash bag gets full in less than a ¼ of a mile. Recently, I noticed that there is less and less trash on the portions of the road I run. As I was beginning to feel I was making a difference, I would notice more trash after a couple of days. This brought back my memory of “the lone tear” commercial of my youth. 

It may appear as if I’m trying to save the Earth. But that’s not what I’m doing. I’m selfishly saving my own butt and the way of life I have become accustomed. 

If there is any truth that the planet is a self-correcting system (which is a debatable topic) then it would seem that the earth, in all its natural intelligence, will adjust just fine. Humans, however, don’t adjust so well. We love things to remain the same and we fight change with all our might. 

Whether it’s four-wheelin’ in the country side you enjoy or a nice meditative stroll down a forest path – we all want the same thing – for the beauty of nature and all it has to offer to remain as we know it.
Selfish? Maybe. But I personally don’t wish to experience Earth’s natural self-correcting system of a declining forest, dead lakes and animal extinction; particularly if we have contributed to that “self-correcting” process.

Comedian George Carlin once said that the planet itself will be just fine. It will just “shake us off like a bad case of fleas” to free itself from the object causing it pain.

So, the next time you consider throwing trash out the window, either remember the tear or think of the flea.

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