Earth Day – Optimism Required!


Earth Day has been on my mind a lot. My last post was about Earth Day from a Gardening Artist’s perspective. But today I realized that I’m not done with Earth Day yet.

Our sons are all grown up now, but I can remember a particularly black day back in the early 80’s when one our sons came home from elementary school very upset and very depressed. When we tried to find out what was the matter he finally answered.

He said, and I paraphrase here, but you’ll get the gist, “What is the use of anything? We are all going to die in a polluted stinking world, with no water, and food full of pesticides. The air is going to be unbreathable and there will be too many people to be able to feed them all. Why am I even going to school? What is the point of going on?”

To say that I was appalled and shocked, would be an understatement. I knew I had to think fast. This son of mine was truly in a state of deep despair and very very pessimistic for his future. The schools and the teachers, having finally latched onto ecology had pushed all the negatives way too hard. But they had forgotten to temper all that bad news with some good news. I had to suddenly come up with as many things as I could to convince him that all was not lost. I had to think of things where pollution had been turned around, like the fact that the Thames had been cleaned up from a stinking cesspool to a pretty respectable river. That people like Green Peace were out there fighting for the ecology and making a difference. That a lot of people were conserving water and not polluting in all sorts of ways. I won’t go into all the things I had to come up with that day but hopefully you get the point.

I know why he felt this way. I get pretty down about the future just watching Nature shows. In fact, no disrespect to David Suzuki, but I quit watching his shows years ago. I renamed those shows, Guilt with Suzuki. Each show made me feel so sad, hopeless, guilty and despairing. And that is what my son faced, complete despair. And with that was a sense that all was lost and why bother? Keep in mind that this exchange with my son happened in the early 80’s. There was a lot less going on out there to show that we could turn it all around.

That day I had to convince my son that there was hope for the future. Although I also had to tell him that while the future of the Earth might not be perfect, we could each of us make a difference by doing little things. And all those little things would in the end make a huge difference.

And I look around today and I see lots of little things to be positive about. Like the fact that we have Blue Boxes here as part of the municipal services. We even have a garden waste compost program for our municipality. Ok, these are actually, in my mind, BIG things.

We and lots of other people recycle. We carry our own bags to shop. Lots of people buy second hand like we do. We are not the only people who don’t flush for every use and turn off the tap when we brush our teeth. Ok, all little things but everything counts when more and more join in. We even spend a lot of time making sure our cast stone sculptures are as green as possible. So I’m not going to list all the little things we can do and try to do. Besides I like to keep my posts to around 500 words. It’s a blog after all, not a book or an essay.

Nowadays, I look for positive signs. I look for optimism for the future. I have not seen Al Gore’s movie, feeling that it will probably be more of the same old pessimism and will also not add to my sometimes tenuous feelings that there is actually hope for the earth. And with that, I’m not saying, put your head in the sand and forget about the bad things. If anything, my plea is to see the bad things but balance them with remembering and celebrating the good things we are doing for the Earth.

The point I want to make here is that by remembering the good things that we can do and have done, and by being optimistic, we redress the balance of hope and despair. Like my son back there in the 80’s, totally blown away by a black and polluted future, if we concentrate only on the bad and the negative, we will lose one of the most important things that we need for change and that is hope. And if we lose HOPE we will lose the most important thing of all, the WILL to make it better.

So this Earth Day I hope, there’s that hope word again, that you will tell your children or grandchildren (if you are a boomer like me) about all the little things that are making a big difference. And also think of and celebrate all those who have helped to make significant changes to our thinking about ecology. Ok I’m going to get off this soap box now. I’m going to end with two photos taken here in Victoria, my own personal symbols of Earth Day.

Happy and Hopeful Earth Day Everybody!