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My Earth Day Reckoning

And we died of the future,
of calling and mission only we could keep,
leaping into every favorite season;
sinking into roots, dreams, and books.
— Li-Young Lee, First World

“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news” — John Muir

Looking back, it seems quite natural to be locked into this routine of daily obligations—of work and chores and driving from here to there. Things fall apart and must be fixed. We must be fixed too. We are what we repeatedly do, as I repeatedly remind myself. So when is there time for nature and hiking? When is there time for long walks in the woods?

There is no other time than now. We must go, and see, and take something of it with us for eternity. Not a rock or a leaf or even a flower, but a memory of who we were when we found the truth. Earth is far bigger and more beautiful than we’ll ever fully realize, no matter the frequent flyer miles accumulated. Earth is fragile yet resilient, and will wait an eternity to shrug herself of humanity. It may take a million years, but Earth will fix itself in time. We’re the ones who suffer for our neglect.

Yet we are a small ripple in this big pond. Whether I recycle or not makes little difference, not when we see the crisis of leadership in the bigger things happening in the world. Nonetheless, we all make a small difference. We might pile on or opt in to the mission of making the planet a better place for our children’s children. Our small daily actions aren’t meant for others to see, they affirm who we tell ourselves we want to be in this world. We’re part of a larger chorus, and our accumulation of voices make a difference even when we can’t see it. A forest is made up of thousands of trees and millions of leaves. There is power in numbers.

“I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one. The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list. The pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves—we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other’s destiny.”
— Mary Oliver, Winter Hours

Earth Day is a reckoning, a day when we take stock of what we’re doing to the Earth, but also a day when we take stock of what we’re doing with our own brief time on this planet. There are things we say yes to in this world, which means we say no to many other things. In the end, we must choose, what dreams will die with us? What will we stand for? What will we stand up against?

We all see the changes in the world, but forget we have some agency in the matter. Is this a year of incremental improvement or reckless abandonment of what we believe we ought to be. These are questions for society, surely, but also for each of us in our daily lives. The question is always the same: who are we becoming?

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    1. Sorry the reply button is too close to the back button!

      If consumers could simply witness, by standing just once on a remote beach exposed to the trade winds, and set eyes on an astonishing quantity of plastic waste that has accumulated for only a brief amount of time, then maybe, just maybe they would think about what goes into their trash.


  1. We began using compostable trash and sandwich bags, also we use laundry sheets that come in a cardboard package instead of a large plastic bottle. This is in addition to all the trash we pack out while on trails. At least we are trying. I wish more would.

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