earth day

If everyone lived like me, we’d need 3.6 planets.
Thanks…Happy Earth Day to you too.
Reminiscense Alert: On Earth Day in 1990, I attended a little Earth Day festival at Pioneers Park near Lincoln. I was still in high school and was very into environmentalism, but then who wasn’t. Even at the time it seemed like a bit of a fad: I clearly remember one all-star environmentalism special on TV starring Bette Midler as Mother Earth. Disturbing.
A lot of things from those heady days have now become institutionalized: lots of towns have recycling facilities available, and now hybrid cars are getting popular (this spike in gasoline prices might turn out to be great for the environment), but gradually people seem to have lost interest on an individual level. For example, back in the day one of the big things was less packaging and not using disposable items; while over the past five to ten years it seems that more and more disposable items–one-use detergent-soaked cleansing towels and the like–have crept back onto the market.
My interest in environmental issues has been renewed of late. It never really waned, but when I lived in Chicago I just didn’t have many options. On the plus side (environmentally speaking) I didn’t have a car, so I had to walk or take public transportation. I couldn’t afford an air conditioner, so I had to just deal with the summers. On the other hand, though, I wasn’t able to recycle much stuff. I could haul paper, glass, and aluminum to campus or to the grocer store to recycle, but everything else had to go in the trash. Chicago supposedly had some kind of recycling pick-up, but I don’t think it worked for apartment-dwellers–at least, I never figured out how it could work.
Here in GR, my options, or lack thereof, are different. I have a car and it’s really the only practical means of transportation for me. I can walk to local stores, but the grocery store is really too far to pack groceries home from. Walking or biking into the city, however, would be all but impossible: back roads are convoluted and don’t link up in logical ways, and biking on the highways would be extremely dangerous and probably illegal. The bus is an option, but takes about 3x as long as driving if you have to transfer; and while I would actually prefer taking the bus to driving it’s not a very efficient use of time. On the other hand, having a car gives me access to recycling facilities and farmer’s markets–so it’s a bit of a toss-up.
A lot of the issues which drive my need for 3.6 earths come not from my preferred behavior, but from available options. I’d like to buy more locally-produced food, but this is Michigan: it’s only available a few months of the year; of course, I could be better about seeking it out when it is available. Unfortunately, driving is the least efficient mode of transportation, but it’s also the only choice in a lot of cases, and it allows me to access the recycling facilities and the locally-produced food.
I’m not really one to propose governmental solutions to every problem, but more and more I’ve been wishing we had more public transportation options in this country. It would be great to be able to travel within and between cities by bus or train like in Europe, but the problem is that we have much larger spaces to deal with here than in European countries, and most people still prefer the convenience of driving their own cars. But if traffic congestion, smog, and gas prices get much worse, and if public transportation were a more attractive option (besides the time thing, I have to admit that the bus does get a bit dingy, and when you go over those picturesque brick streets downtown you’re shaken around like a maraca), maybe it could happen. I would love to have more efficient public transportation in town, and to be able take a bus or train out to the beach in the summer, or even to be able to get to Chicago using public transportation instead of driving (yes, there’s Amtrak, but it’s expensive, unreliable, and its schedule makes it all but useless to me).
Anyhow, that’s my issue this Earth Day: public transportation. I’d love to see some candidate try to make political capital off of that one.

6 Responses to “earth day”

  1. alan says:

    Believe it or not, your post is an encouraging reminder to me that the small details add up. I require 3.2 earths for my lifestyle, but as I was answering questions I realized “you know, I could do this piece a little better.”
    The lack of a winter food supply in Michigan is a bit of a misnomer. There are plenty of local foods throughout the winter, but they tend to be items that store well (root vegetables, apples, etc), are grown in climate-controlled facilities, or if you’re feeling really industrious, that have been canned from summer farm stand surplus. We all take baby steps, and it helps.
    Happy Earth Day to you too!

  2. KDC says:

    Ha! I knew we would convert you.
    Though if the CTA really goes nuts this summer, public transportation may be just as inconvenient here as in the hinterlands of southwest Michigan.

  3. michele says:

    KDC: What’s going on with the CTA? Yeah, I never thought it would happen, but I do miss being able to take the Metra and L places.
    Alan, I do like to use winter veggies in the winter, but at the store they all seem to come from elsewhere. I’ve toyed with the idea of canning some stuff myself, but am afraid of poisoning us. Maybe I’ll be brave this summer and try it.

  4. KDC says:

    Oh, the budget problems in every state have hit us too. The CTA doesn’t have the funds to operate (so they say, and I think it is more truth than lie) properly, so if the state doesn’t kick in or the funding formula doesn’t change, the fares will increase to $2 (with no cash transfers) and the schedule will be Sunday schedule every day, so no #2, no express of any kind, 25 minute waits for supercrowded buses… doomsday, basically.
    Fortunately, I have a job which I will probably accept this week at Gordon College near Boston, so we will miss all of that. By the way, I only consume 2.9 planets, though it would be less if I didn’t fly so much and we had more options to get locally grown produce or fewer packaged goods. But not owning a car helps.
    My guess is that, currently, Molly M.F. is consuming 0.00001 earths, though, and they are all mommy’s milky goodness. Congrats to Jon and Kim, who are no doubt not reading this right now. Who’s next?

  5. michele says:

    Congratulations on the job! Boston is rather far away, though!
    Molly’s early evidence of environmental sensitivity is appropriate to her birthday, I think.
    That would be a disaster, Chicago needs its CTA. I’m guessing it will be bailed out though, the consequences would be to dire to let that happen.

  6. kim says:

    It is with great chagrin that I must admit that little Molly is not quite a model of environmental virtue just yet. Because she is so small, she can’t fit into the newborn sized cloth diapers I bought for her. We are forced to use preemie sized Huggies and Pampers until she puts on another pound or two. Oh, the shame…

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