Thursday, April 26, 2012

America, the Beautiful ... right?

(apologies ahead of time. I'm traveling and probably can't reply to comments. It seems like I'm always traveling when I blog here. Maybe someday I won't be going to and fro so much).

Return with me, to those ?thrilling? days of yesteryear ... the date is 1972 and I'm riding in a wee tiny Triumph convertible with my current beau. The sun is shining, the cool breezes are passing over our head, we're meandering down a country road in Corn Country on a summer day. I take a sip from the Coke can in my hand, find it is empty and toss it out of the car.

SCREECH to a halt.

Current beau gets out of the car, retrieves the can, and proceeds to give me a lecture on littering. Remember, this was just a few years after the first Earth Day -- a day which was not heavily celebrated for at least a decade. He explained how long it took trash to decompose, how much litter is already floating around the ocean, how toxic such things are to the environment, etc.

I was amazed. Truly. Not that he knew these kinds of things: he was an eclectic kind of guy, a recently returned Vietnam vet (with PTSD, but that's a long story best told in a book, which I did: Nowhere To Run. Yes, it's based on truth), he was a 'returning student' at college (going on the G.I. bill) and he was interested in Ecology, Engineering, and extreme martial arts and street fighting (not necessarily in that order).

No, what amazed me was that I listened and suddenly I Got It. I understood that it is up to each of us, each individual, to make a choice to recycle, to not litter, to do a part in keeping America beautiful, in keeping Spaceship Earth spinning happily. We must be conscious of the effect we have on the world -- not just our little world right here, but the bigger world as well.

That moment was an epiphany for me because suddenly the Environment wasn't just "stuff out there" it was real: it was a tossed can on a country road, it was papers blowing in the ditch, it was turtles being choked by contamination, it was pesticides and DDT and our food chain.

I appreciate that wake-up call. The Beau and I had problems later (nothing as extreme as I portrayed in the book, but scary nonetheless). He disappeared into the vastness of jungles of Thailand, turning his back on the world. I was left to live here and consider just what the hell humans are doing to all the creatures who share this planet with us. Since that time, I've been an avid environmentalist, doing everything I can in my own meager way to toe the line.

It's up to each of us, each individual one of us, to make the difference -- whether it's by adopting a shelter pet, by refusing to discard that 'trash', by considering what chemicals we put on our land and in our bodies. We need to live our lives consciously, every day.

Let's keep America (and the world) beautiful.


Jannine Gallant said...

It's amazing to me how different attitudes toward littering were 30 years ago. You would think everyone in the 21st century would know the importance of protecting the environment, but I'm fraid we aren't quite there yet! Nowhere to Run sounds like a fascinating book.

Colleen Connally said...

I agree with you, J L, that we need to make a difference no manner how small. Sometimes we just to be reminded. Thanks!

Margaret Tanner said...

Great blog JL. We are big on re-cycling here in Australia now. In the 1970's, that was a different story, I can't remember reclying anything. My Mum and women of her generation did, because they had been through the great depression and re-cycled almost everything. Not for conservation purposes but out of sheer necessity.