Con­tin­u­ing on my jour­ney to rad­i­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism

Orlando Sentinel - - OPINION -

I can’t quite re­mem­ber the mo­ment when I be­came rad­i­cal­ized about pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and the planet, but it hap­pened last year. That’s late in life, I know. At 49 years old, it is very pos­si­ble and even likely that I have more years be­hind me than in front of me, but that is when it hap­pened.

Be­fore that, I didn’t do more than was re­quired by law.

I have lived in New York City since 1994. Manda­tory re­cy­cling was phased in city­wide by 1997. So, I re­cy­cled what was re­quired.

Five years ago, when my last two chil­dren went away to col­lege, I got rid of my car, but not for en­vi­ron­men­tal rea­sons. I just didn’t need it any­more, and it was ex­pen­sive to main­tain.

But some­thing hap­pened to me last year.

Maybe it was Greta Thun­berg’s ad­vo­cacy, and hear­ing her im­pas­sioned United Na­tions speech in which she blasted world lead­ers, say­ing: for a thou­sand years. I im­me­di­ately bought re­us­able shop­ping bags, stopped buy­ing plas­tic stor­age bags, bought biodegrad­able garbage bags, and found places that would re­cy­cle the few plas­tic bags I had.

But the whole thing made me think about how heavy my car­bon foot­print and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact are now, and how dif­fer­ent that was from the way I grew up.

As a child, my fam­ily had a tiny en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact, in part be­cause we were poor. Most of our food came from our own prop­erty: no ship­ment emis­sion, no pack­ag­ing, no pes­ti­cides.

My mother planted two truck patch gar­dens where we grew corn, leafy greens, pota­toes, toma­toes, okra and melons. We raised our own food an­i­mals for pro­tein, each year buy­ing a cou­ple of hogs and a cow.

Poor peo­ple were the orig­i­nal re­cy­clers be­fore re­cy­cling was the norm. Waste was for the wealthy. For that rea­son we had lit­tle trash. When I thought about that in the con­text of the ou­tra­geous amount of trash my fam­ily and I now pro­duce, I felt ashamed.

So I de­cided to not only re­duce my trash pro­duc­tion, but also to dra­mat­i­cally re­duce my first use of even things that can be re­cy­cled. Not only does the pro­duc­tion of those prod­ucts in the first in­stance con­sume en­ergy, re­cy­cling them also uses en­ergy. Be­yond that, you can­not be as­sured that what you put on the curb to be re­cy­cled ac­tu­ally will be.

None of this is to po­si­tion my­self as a per­fect ex­am­ple of an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, but rather to demon­strate to peo­ple like me who read this col­umn that it is never too late to start try­ing, that ev­ery small ef­fort mat­ters, and that you can do it in com­mu­ni­ties of late-re­form­ers like me.

My jour­ney to rad­i­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism is not com­plete. To the con­trary, it’s just be­gin­ning. I think that the only way to pre­vent the rad­i­cal al­ter­ation of our planet is to com­mit to a rad­i­cal al­ter­ation of our own be­hav­ior.


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