Thursday, April 22, 2010

Go Ahead, Hug That Tree - It's Okay .....

Quick ..... picture an 'environmentalist' in your mind, and what do you see? ..... Who are these people, anyway? ..... And where do they get their crazy ideas?

All too often, people deal with stereotypes formed from incomplete and inaccurate observations. For example, because one totes a firearm (and, maybe, hunts), does that make one some kind of NRA-cold-dead-fingers-off-the-trigger fanatic? ..... maybe not.

Because one is an environmentalist, does that make one some kind of wild-eyed-tie-dyed-bare-footed-tree-hugging-leftist-leaning-granola-eating hippie? ..... again, maybe not.

That's not to say there aren't some individuals out there who might fit those stereotypes ..... but you have to ask yourself if they are the 'rule' or the 'exception' ..... are YOU an environmentalist, even just a little bit? ..... you may be, even if you haven't spent much time at an outdoor concert in Woodstock; a commune in Taos, or a revolutionary neighborhood in San Francisco.

Me? My environmental roots took hold in very different soil, in lessons learned from my family, my parents and my grandparents. They were people who experienced first-hand the Great Wars of the 1910s and the 1940s, and the Great Depression of the 1930s. My father's family were farmers, and that provided an added lesson for me to respect the blessings that are the earth and its resources, and to do whatever I can - within reason - to nurture those resources, to use them well and wisely .....

..... to be a good steward. My family had never heard of Gaia (that was something I learned later, in college), but there was still something spiritual - a matter of fundamental faith - in their relationship to the Earth and its resources. They had read in the Bible (KJV), the Book of Genesis, that their dominion over the Earth and its resources, and their command to replenish and subdue, came from God ..... pretty heady stuff, and a topic that is still the subject of heated debate today.

Spirituality ..... and frugality ..... wasting nothing ..... helping to make limited ends meet by finding a way to use (or re-use) anything and everything before you decide to dispose of it ...... to repair/rebuild/restore the old before having to buy the new - a decision that is taken more and more out of our hands in the modern electronic age, where car maintenance (for example) is not as easy it was in my father's day. And frugality extends to the kitchen, as well ..... recipes my grandma shared with me, and strategies for re-using products, and stretching limited amounts of meat, and serving leftovers in a creative manner, reflected the days when household budgets were especially tight.

Spirituality ... and frugality ... and patriotism. World Wars I and II were fought on many fronts, including the home front, where we were asked (and, in some cases, required) to conserve valuable resources such as gasoline, needed to aid the war effort. In retrospect, it seems to me that recycling efforts of the past thirty years (which I have experienced) were nothing compared to those of the 1940s (which I did not experience, but were described to me by my parents and grandparents). And Victory Gardens (some as big as a house lot, some as small as a window box) provided fresh produce that might be lacking on store shelves.

Spirituality ... frugality ... patriotism ... and good economic/business sense. Take aluminum recycling, for example. Some are surprised that the process has been used since the early 1900s - it only gained a high profile in the 1960s and 70s as environmentalism became more and more a part of the public consciousness. According to industry statistics, recycling aluminum uses 95% less energy, and a lot less money, than making new aluminum through the mining and refining of ore products. And recycling aluminum (or any other recyclable product), rather than just throwing it away, also makes good sense to taxpayers who have to pay for growing waste/landfill services in their community ..... and even those who make fun of 'tree-huggers' can appreciate anything that reduces our shared tax burden.

Spirituality ... frugality ... patriotism ... good economic sense ... and pride. Environmentalism reflects my love for, and pride in my community and its appearance. And that includes efforts to pick up the trash that others have discarded along our roadsides, in our parks, and around our town ... and recycling ... and promoting reasonable alternatives ... and including environmentalism in the issues that guide my vote.

Anyway, that's why I AM an environmentalist ..... and proud of it.

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