After my son was born and I brought him home from the hospital, the first time we left the apartment was for his initial well visit with the pediatrician. When I walked out on the street, I looked at my surroundings with new eyes. Everything seemed dirty and dangerous. All I could see was a world that held out potential harm.
Eventually, I calmed down. I made an effort to do things that I thought would make a difference for his personal well-being and the planet. I took the cloth diapers route, fed him organic food, and used only laundry detergents that were biodegradable. Some people laughed at me. Given that I lived in New York City -- not exactly a town renowned for its pristine air -- I wasn't surprised.
My actions were based not only on personal beliefs, but also on the concept that maybe through controlling smaller elements, the larger factors I couldn't influence would be diminished.
Now that he's a teenager, he's not willing to buy into all of my lifestyle choices. I can't monitor his every action, but I can be proactive about what affects the environment of the country in which he lives.
Currently, I am alarmed about how this Congress is looking at stripping the EPA of its powers. I am concerned that the Obama administration could be pressured into loosening its foothold on a strong commitment to clean air and water. I am dubious about the type of legislation that is being offered up under the guise of being the best option for the economy.
Everyone in our country is not going to agree on what to do and how to do it. You just have to tune into C-SPAN to see that. For some, the concerns of the environment seem unrelated to their daily lives. Yet every small thing that we do makes a tremendous difference. It can be using your own bag to carry groceries, making the effort to recycle the bottles and papers that you consume, or supporting a manufacturer who endeavors to bring the consumer a product that is green friendly. We all play a part, not just the big oil companies and the usual suspects.
We need an attitude change. As Eldridge Cleaver once said, "You're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem."
Our children are the future. They are affected by the food they eat, the air they breathe, the land they live on, and the cities they inhabit. In addition to advocating for what's best for them, we need to set an example. This has to be taught early on in life.
My son already gets part of it. Who knows? Maybe in ten years he will see the value in those small details that make up the larger picture.
Painting Courtesy of Marcia G. Yerman
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