Monday, October 15, 2007

October 15: Blog Action for the Environment Day

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day
Bloggers across the net are raising awareness today for a variety of environmental issues – from global climate change to conservation, from recycling to responsible agricultural practices. Today is Blog Action for the Environment Day, and nearly 16, 000 bloggers and 12 million readers are participating in this international day of action.

I’ve spent some time this afternoon perusing a number of blogs, checking out what other writers have chosen to reflect on today. A number of blogs focus on the significance of Al Gore’s recent Noble Prize and the need to take action to end climate change. I’ve stumbled across a number of interesting entries about how we need to stop thinking of environmental issues as fodder for partisan political debates and instead think of them as life issues. I’ve been ruminating on what I might share that would add to this larger conversation on the environment.

I didn’t grow up eating organic foods on a commune. My family didn’t compost, unless you can count chucking apple cores out the window on long car rides. I am not an environmental activist by birth. But as a result of how I grew up, I would consider myself someone who is concerned about environmental issues.

Some of my favorite childhood memories are playing in the cherry and apple orchards that surrounded my cousin’s home. With our legs dangling off the tailgate of my uncle’s truck, my sister, mom, cousin, aunt, and I would bounce into the orchard each summer to pick buckets of cherries. And each year, even though I knew better, I would gorge myself on sweet cherries. My sister, cousin, and I would line up among the trees for the annual contest to see who could spit her pits the farthest. Leah always won. She could curl her tongue around the pit and send in flying at least two rows. We’d race through trees, ducking under gnarled branches, playing tag in the orchard while our parents picked fruit for pies, breads, jams, and more. I took for granted the orchards of my childhood. I just assumed everyone grew up eating as much fruit as they wanted, playing hide ‘n’ seek among evenly spaced rows of trees and delicate white blossoms. As a kid, I didn’t know anything about the possibility of pesticides seeping into the well water of homes that surrounded farmland.

My family moved away from cherry country when I was 11. We moved into muck. Western Michigan is home to many muck farms where cabbage, lettuce, greens, and parsley are grown. My first real summer job at 13 years old was working from 6:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m., six days a week, cutting lettuce from football-stadium length fields we had earlier in the season spent weeding on our hands and knees. I hated that job, but went back the following summer.

My parents still live in the same area. Their home, once surround by corn on three sides and squash fields on the other, is quickly being developed into subdivisions. Bulldozers have ripped through the fields I grew up in. They’ve made way for cookie-cutter homes and man-made lakes.

Although the current political debate around global climate change is important, I think many people find it difficult to connect to the doomsday warnings. Instead, I think we encounter environmental issues on a much smaller, much more personal scale. It is those personal moments that have meaning. I buy organic produce because growing up and working on farms as a kid, I’ve been doused by the pesticide sprayer more times than I can count. As a college student, I protested buying grapes from California where migrant workers became sick and in some cases died when the drinking water in their homes was contaminated with pesticides. I recycle everything I can because the dump near my childhood home has grown to mountainous proportions. I buy organic milk and free range meats when possible because I read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and have seen inside industrial chicken coops. I support organizations like The Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Club because my parents took my sister and me camping every summer, and although I hated the mosquitoes, I loved every other minute spent in the woods.

So if nothing else, I hope that today someone reads this and is able to make a personal connection. Instead of throwing away that piece of junk mail you received today, recycle it. Instead of leaving the water on when you brush your teeth tonight, shut it off. Close the refrigerator door instead of letting it hang open. Don’t print out that last blank page and toss it in the trash. Take a walk this evening and listen for the crickets. Remember what it is like to connect to the world you live in.
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