April 19th through the 25th is National Environmental Education Week; activities are planned throughout our Garden State. The New Jersey Clean Community Program is sponsoring clean-up projects called “litter marches”. Communities are holding recycling forums and nature walks. Schools are planning “Earth Day Celebrations” complete with activities and craft projects. Preschoolers will be returning from school this week holding freshly planted seeds in paper cups, or wearing hats crafted from newspapers, while their older counterparts will participate in Earth Day poster contests, beach clean-ups, and “green” educational programs promoting water conservation and non-toxic cleansers. To me, though well and good, this is like preaching to the choir.
For the most part, it’s not private citizens who need reminding the earth matters; it’s corporations. I’m well aware people comprise corporations. I am equally aware people often fall prey to the corruptive power of corporate entities. Call it what you will (adult peer pressure, the lure of power, the pursuit of the almighty dollar), but personal values often fall by the wayside within money making machines. Big business gobbled up the vacant land on Staten Island and plowed all the trees down to build townhouses. Big business bull-dozed over the cherry trees on Route 35 in Middletown to do the same. Big business decimated Long Branch to build Pier Village. Big business sends out mass mailings of junk mail nobody wants.
Tell me, why do companies issue “summer catalogs” that are exactly the same as the “spring catalogs” I received last week? Why do charitable organizations send me free address labels, notepads, and wrapping paper to entice me to “pay” with a donation? I could wallpaper my entire house twice with all that free stuff I didn’t ask for, and do you know what becomes of it? Address labels go directly into the shredder; notepads are used for shopping lists, and Christmas gifts are wrapped with the free paper. And while I’m picking on such organizations, can somebody explain their logic in mailing me nickels or pennies? Last week, I received two charitable mailings containing dollar bills! Collectively, isn’t there a better purpose for that money? All these corporate mailings create tons of trash for the masses in pursuit of a donation from the few. Personally, my money will go where I choose to send it regardless of the free, excess stuff I receive in the mail.
When I was a kid, recycling was commonplace in the home long before the word itself became part of our language. We covered our textbooks with paper grocery bags. We walked or rode our bikes whenever we could rather than used the car. We were not schooled in excess and were content with modest colonial homes, hand-me-downs, leftovers, paper dolls, hand-pushed lawn mowers, and one television per household. Our parents and grandparents lived through the Great Depression and freely passed on their appreciation for all they had. Thus, we didn’t need a political agenda to conserve energy and preserve our world; we instinctively did so.
Earth Day is April 22nd. Go ahead and plant your seeds in paper cups, join beach clean-ups, and hug a tree. And remember...it’s humility and simplicity that preserve life; avarice and excess destroys it.