Our beautiful garden planet!
What a beautiful planet we have been given, I often think when I am outside. My mother’s garden full of ripe tomatoes, green kale and climbing beans has a rustic beauty. Driving along a dirt road boarded by rail fences and tall golden grasses lifts my spirits. From the salty air of the ocean to the cold crisp air on the mountaintops, I take pleasure in deep breaths. Anytime I step outside I enjoy patterns and colors in the clouds and I love to observe the differing hues of blue in the sky.
Today I walked along a forest service road uphill through Aspens and Douglass Fir trees. At the top of the hill, leaving behind the trees, I stood on the grassy ridge 7000 feet above sea level. To the north the sky was a light blue with scatterings of white clouds. To the south steel gray clouds rose from behind the mountains, reflecting the steel color back in the lake far below. I could see the effects of the wind on the water, ripples and waves breaking up the smooth surface. It was an altogether perfect scene, and I walked on contentedly.
The trail turned downward and to the left I saw something white in the grass. A closer look revealed dirty rags, trash. A little further on I saw a crumpled soda can nestled into the grass. I turned back east and hiked up hill, a steep path that ends at the top of the butte. From this spot I can see the lake, the mountains in the distance, tiny specs that are boats on the water. A fire tower sits on the very top of the butte, along with a sign – elevation and name listed. On this day, in front of the sign I saw a half empty beer bottle. His fallen brother lay nearby. It is always disappointing to see litter, but it is especially painful in such wild locations. Someone took the time to walk a strenuous path into a beautiful location, enjoy the view and the privacy, and then hike down while leaving trash behind.
No one wants to step out of his or her house to find plastic bags and empty food containers in their yards. Why is it OK to toss trash out of car windows, or leave refuse beside trees, in parks on sidewalks?
Driving down any interstate I will see plastic bags, soda cans, old papers, all sorts of things on the sides of the roads. One day I followed an old pick up truck. As the truck merged onto the highway a plastic bag flew out of the truck bed. In just a minute another bag flew out, then another. Suddenly there was a steady stream of bags, lifted out of the bed of the truck and flying through the air. I am sure the driver had no idea of the plastic flight going on behind him.
Right out my window I see large wide lawns and tall mature trees. One tree, at least 60 feet tall sports a large plastic bag wrapped around a high branch. It has survived storms and rain as long as I have lived here.
One day I bought my groceries and had them lined up in their plastic bags in the back seat of my car. Sometimes I accidently get two bags at a time, an unused bag still attached to the one filled with my purchases. On this day I rolled down my windows and drove off down the road. My music was loud, wind was in my hair and face, and flowing through my car. Suddenly an empty bag was swept up and out the window, and I had joined the ranks of litterer.
People litter unintentionally, when they are careless, and intentionally when they are thoughtless. Either way the earth and the seas fill with plastic. At least paper litter will eventually break down into organic parts that are absorbed into the environment, while plastic just continues to exist. Plastic is dangerous to wildlife, and to ocean life. Recently a dead whale washed ashore, and an autopsy found the animal’s stomach was full of plastic. No wonder he died.
What can we do? No, that is not the correct question. What can I do? How can I make things better? I carried the beer bottles back down the trail and tossed them into recycling. I don’t put my groceries in plastic bags anymore. Cloth bags are easy to use, easy to carry, and reusable. When I travel and stop for coffee or drinks I fill my own washable travel mug instead of using and tossing the plastic or cardboard cups. I try to never use bottled water. Water fountains were good enough for me as a child, and they still can be found. It is easy to buy and reuse containers for filtered water, if that is preferred.
These actions hardly seem like much. How can one person’s tiny changes make any kind of difference? Every piece of trash found in the ocean or on the forest floor came from someone, somewhere. So, if the only someone I can control, me, does what I can to not be a part of the problem, and if me, I, can pick up at least some trash every time I walk, that trash will not be there any more. Litter happened one piece at a time, and change can happen one piece, or person at a time.
A week later my husband and I hiked up a mountain to see a beautiful view of our new town. Discarded eclipse glasses had been left in the grass beside the rock I was sitting on. Again, some person had been excited about a natural event – the eclipse. They hiked several miles to a beautiful outcrop of rock above town to enjoy this wonderful natural event. Then, they threw down their trash, perhaps still marveling at how exciting the eclipse had been, and walked away.