I can remember how, in Mrs. Buddin’s second-grade class at Ebinport Elementary School in Rock Hill, we talked about taking care of the planet. Keep in mind this was 1978, when the Energy Crisis was looming. It was common to see images on the evening news of factories or power plants with billowing trails of thick smock rising from their stacks.
Somehow, in what a second-grader can only understand as the infinite wisdom of his teacher, Mrs. Buddin made an impression on me that environmental mismanagement would lead to dark, dirty world on some distant horizon. As a grew older, I always wondered what kind of planet my great-great-great-great grandchildren might inherit from me. Certainly, I thought to myself, this was several hundred years away – if not a thousand.
Mrs. Buddin couldn’t have anticipated the rate at which the situation on Earth would worsen. Now, many scientists are saying we have just 10 years to effect serious change, otherwise our children won’t have much of a livable planet to inherit.
I know there are people who don’t believe in global warming, and there are those who claim that the release of carbon dioxide and the subsequent warming of the planet are natural events. Frankly, I don’t think we as a species have time to argue about this any longer. Our planet is getting hotter. Our weather is getting more and more unpredictable. Entire island nations, like the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, will be submerged in 50 years.
And now news that something is causing bees to disappear. Without bees, most of the food grown in America will vanish because there is no way for plants and trees to reproduce and bear fruit without their pollenators.
From my perspective, the picture is especially grim. Like it or not, I live in the nation that consumes most of the world’s resources and produces most of the waste. Forget what China is doing; we in America (myself included) are a huge part of the problem.
But I have hope.
Last weekend, I waited in traffic for more than a half-hour while hundreds of people lined up to drive through Rock Creek Park in order to drop off old electronics and toxic household materials for recycling. I talked to several of the workers who said the crowds started arriving before 9 a.m. that morning, and that they likely wouldn’t get to everyone when the event shut down at 3 p.m. that afternoon.
After living here since the mid-90s, it was the first time I have ever been inspired by the actions of my local government and my fellow Washingtonians.
People are starting to understand. Slowly. I see more and more hybrids on the streets, and mass transit gets more and more crowded every year. I’ve talked to mothers who are literally afraid for their young children and the environment they will eventually inherit. The mind shift has started.
I just hope it isn’t too late.