Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Past Deadline: Start Saving the World

For Earth Day - published in The Perth Courier on Tuesday, April 21/09.

Start saving the world

I’ve had this feeling lately that I need to save the world. Does that ever happen to you? It’s a daunting task. There’s a lot to save. It makes my head spin a little.

For me saving the world tends to lean towards the environment because I think everything else is moot if we don’t deal with this. But what to do? It’s overwhelming. It’s kind of like (but not at all the same as) when you have a whole bunch of things you need to do – errands to run, jobs to finish, a house to clean, a pet to take to the vet, a kid to take somewhere, etc. – and you don’t really know where to start. Sometimes there is so much that I find myself sitting in a chair and staring blankly into space – completely immobilized by the sheer hectic-ness of it all.

The way I usually solve that little problem is to make a list. I love lists and I’m one of those people who includes several easily achievable tasks so I can actually feel as if I am getting somewhere. I’m likely to write “make a list” at the top of the page. Whatever works, right?

Saving the world, though – that’s a darned big job. I’m not even sure making a list will help. Still, it’s a place to start.

Another place to start is with the phrase “think globally, act locally.” For me, at this stage in my life and with my homebody tendencies, I’m not likely to immediately develop a new worldwide foundation and go globetrotting to promote its merits. Besides, globetrotting is a bit environmentally irresponsible. I’m more likely to start small. Whatever I do I will involve my kids so they become future stewards of the Earth.

That’s all fine and good, but it’s still not easy. I am, after all, a hypocrite.Consider that you are reading the column by the girl who used to rail frequently against the proliferation of those gas-guzzling, environmentally unfriendly SUVs, only to go out a few years ago and buy a van. As much as I like my van, I still feel guilty about driving it. For a while I considered getting a vanity plate that says “HPOCR8T.”

I’m not alone, though. Recent generations of folks have been part of a society consumed by consumption (and I don’t mean tuberculosis). It’s hard to change a habit – especially when people don’t fully understand the consequences of a continued pattern of seemingly innocuous behaviour.

I still think we need big-time leadership at least nationally, but ideally internationally, to get our collective acts together. It may be painful at first, but there needs to be substantive change in terms of the technologies driving our societal engines (i.e. enough with the fossil fuels already) and a major overhaul in the way we use energy and consume the planet’s resources. While we wait for world leaders to get their butts in collective gear, there are many small things we can be doing. Small, local stuff adds up.

So, yes, I drive a van and I still sometimes use plastic bags when I shop so I have a few garbage bags, but here’s my list (Yay! A list!) of things I can start to do or keep doing to act locally:

1. Keep composting and recycling.

2. Start trying even harder to purchase items that have reasonable amounts of packaging so I don’t have to dispose or recycle

3. Keep using the clothesline in the spring, summer and fall. (My mother-in-law does this in winter, too, but she is a very brave woman.)

4. Start using my bike more.

5. Start buying local even more often. (I don’t know about you, but I’m really beginning to appreciate knowing where my food comes from.)

6. Keep picking up garbage with the kids as we walk to and from school.

7. Start finding a way to eliminate plastic bags from our life completely.

8. Keep teaching kids (not just my own) about taking care of the Earth. Help them to understand what is going on and what we can do to make it better.
9. Keep looking for ways to reduce energy consumption.

It’s a start. Happy Earth Day.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Great ideas. I have not made a big effort regarding packaging but I have thought about it. I have been following a blog (what? me? follow a blog? hahaha) about this couple who is doing a year of buying nothing but consumables and competing with each other to see who creates the least garbage.