As I write this, the boat is rolling for its umpteenth hour since the wind started kicking up from the northeast here in Oriental, NC. It’s a little calmer now. Pelicans are having breakfast. The anchorage is pretty full, and we’re at the edge of it, getting the brunt of the occasional rumpus still coming in from the Neuse River.
Rachel Carson, hero and scientist (photo from wikipedia)
I live outside. The tides, the wind, the animal life are all things that are a part of my daily life. If 11-year-old Anne could see 34-year-old Anne, she’d probably be gobsmacked. It was around 11 years old that I became enamored with Earth Day, which started in 1970 and by the time I came around to knowing about it, we had already forgotten about it for a long time (I feel like the 80s were more about serious consuming) and a new awareness had started gaining traction. Recycling came to our tiny New Hampshire town. A few people I knew even used their own shopping bags when they went shopping. Earth Day tee shirts were a big part of my wardrobe.
You don’t have to be a scientist to grasp or an activist to act on the concept that we only have so much and that there are so very many of us. Boats have brought me to places where I can see, first hand, the ways that we affect the planet. I’ve seen dead and dying coral not far from thriving tropical reefs, banks of dredging spoil made into angular, fake islands, remote beaches with plastic debris on them, evidence of animal bites on beach trash mistaken for food, high salinity water near desalination plants that choke out marine life, plumes of smoke outside of St Marys, GA and resulting ash on the windward side of Cumberland Island, and the fisheries of Maine on their knees for the lack of cod. I’ve also hiked a re-forested White Mountain National Forest after we laid off of her slopes for a while, I’ve seen a CFC ban slightly inconvenience some propellant manufacturers to everyone’s benefit, and it’s been a banner year for North Atlantic Right Whales.
Truth: we have an impact. We can make that impact good or bad.
It’s to our own benefit that we move about the world in a way that’s respectful of her carrying capacity. Cui bono? US.
John Muir, whose birthday inspired the date of Earth Day and who stuck his neck out for the preservation of wild spaces (photo from wikipedia)
Dismissive, disrespectful people who would call me a tree hugger are out there. Watch out for those people, they either lack an understanding of the grave environmental situations we face OR they stand to profit from them financially. Hell, climate change deniers say all the time that the scientific community stands to gain financially for reporting the data they report.
To say that acting locally is thinking globally goes beyond a bumper sticker slogan, and I kindly ask any climate change denier to recognize and respect where I’m coming from.
Sustainable living asks that you look within yourself and scrutinize your practices. It’s not an easy thing to submit yourself to, so let’s talk about it. It takes a humble heart. It’s something only you can do, which is why people so often resist. To make real change, you’re going to have to do more than bring your own bags to the store, carpool to concerts, and faithfully carry the recycling bin to the curb every week.
You’re going to have to read and think. You’re going to have to participate, vote, and pay attention. In those moments where light bulbs start going off in your head, you’ll find out that you don’t need to “give up” anything if that’s what you’re thinking. It just doesn’t feel that way.
There’s a difference between religion and practice. A religion is an ideology not changed or tailored by or for participants, and maybe that’s what people react to when they resist the notion of living a life more attuned to ecological sustainability. This isn’t Lent, man. It’s also not a contest. You don’t have to give anything up for the sake of it and there’s no trophy awarded for it.
Ecological sustainability is a practice. A practice is something that YOU drive, and it should be fueled by your own ideas, actions, and visions. With awareness, it was easy for me to stop using plastic utensils, to build a compost pile, to carry my own coffee cup instead of using disposables, to kill a lawn and grow food instead. I still eat stuff and drink coffee, I just have a different practice now.
From clothing to food to transportation… once you figure out there are things you could change or take part in, it’s pretty easy. If you come into knowing that a change needs to happen and you choose not to take your place among the citizens of the world, then I don’t know what to tell you. I guess I’d say, “Stop being a poop.”
My main points here, I hope, are clear.
1. It’s not painful to live within our means, and in fact, there is comfort and ease to be found in consuming less. Beside actual involvement or activism, we can make a massive impact as consumers and consuming carefully is a good and easy start.
2. You don’t need to think of the oil-slicked birds at an oil spill or sad pictures of arctic animals losing habitat to spark yourself into action. Your local water source might be compromised by changes, a local farmer might be bullied by the USDA, or the price of your food might go up. YOU’RE the animal who will benefit from sustainable practices.
Cuss word warning but watch this if you like. It’s George Carlin and I can’t say it better but it’s got some language in it. To sum up: “The planet is fine, the people are f***ed… the planet isn’t going anywhere. WE ARE… pack your shit folks, ’cause we’re going away… just another failed mutation. The planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas. A surface nuisance.”
To Carlin’s chagrin I mention him on Earth Day and I celebrate Earth Day. But I do it with all my humanness, with love and hope and care for my neighbor. I don’t get it perfect but I do what I can because I do love this blue marble and all the things it gives me. I’m in awe of it. I can’t help it.