Growing up amid the early days of the environmental movement had a definite impact on my life. Teachers preached the need to conserve water. Saturday morning commercials were interspersed with advertisements showing a Native American crying at the pollution and baby bears being rescued from forest fires. By fourth grade, when the other girls were hanging posters of child-star singers on their bedroom walls I tacked up posters of Woodsy Owl and Smokey the Bear.The books I read taught compassion for nature. A spider that helps save a pig from the butchery, the plight of a family of rabbits as their home is bulldozed. In my “tweens” I collected money door-to-door for environmental causes. All of life was precious to me, and I thought the world shared this view.
Something happened along the way. People lost sight, or maybe they never really held it to begin with. As I entered adulthood I resigned myself to being the oddball. People I worked with would make fun of me and my so-called obsession; at one company I even earned the nickname of Mother Nature…because I had so many plants on my desk and because I asked questions such as:
-Why do people use nasty artificial air fresheners? Why don’t they just clean their house?
-We are told to rinse chlorine off of our skin after being in the pool. How can we do that when the water from our shower smells stronger than the pool water?
-Why do we have fluoride in our tap water? My stomach and liver are not going to get tooth decay. My pets and petunias don’t need it. We already have fluoride in toothpaste and mouthwash isn’t that enough?
-And finally, why do we build apartments and shopping centers which remain half empty on top of what used to be beautiful crop land and then truck in produce from 2000 miles away?
Of course, no one ever had an answer.
It is heartening to finally see the pendulum begin to swing back. Vegetarianism has become commonplace, no longer do I struggle to find a meal choice when I go out to dinner. It’s okay now to bring canvas bags to the grocery store. There is actually a truck which comes to my house to pick up my recyclables and when I tell people I don’t like to drink the tap water most of them agree, or at least understand, that it doesn’t taste fresh.
This Earth Day I’m filled with hope as a new generation is exposed to the history of the environmental movement and the work of Rachael Carson through shows like those aired on PBS. What we have now that we didn’t have then is several decades of not heeding the advice and being able to positively see the results; one giant experiment in the effects of chemical living and absolute proof in the need to honor the biodiversity of nature. This generation has the unfortunate hindsight of cause and effect, but we also now have all the technology necessary to make some very dynamic changes; all we have to do is choose our direction.
Log onto www.pbs.org for some wonderful educational and entertaining environmental programs; get the show times or watch them online. I recommend:
A Sense of Wonder- about Rachael Carson, the author of Silent Spring
American Experience: Earth Days, the seeds of a revolution
Nature: Frogs, the thin green line
Independent Lens: Dirt! The Movie