Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Not Being a Silent Witness to the Events of our Times

Werner Herzog's "Encounters at the End of the World" is an insightful, haunting and dreamy look at the personalities who live in Antarctica, including its scientists. Many of these scientists, Herzog observes, doubt man's long-term existence on the Earth. Nature, they believe, will regulate us. I couldn't agree more.

Our exploitation of the land and its resources is shameful. Here is just one way we disrespect the Earth: garbage. Many throw things "away" giving little thought to where "away" is and its impact. Unfortunately, "away" often means our waterways, to the great detriment of the fish, birds and other living creatures that depend on these waterways. That includes us too. In our road to a disposable society, we have disposed of our responsibility and ethics along the way.

I participated in Hackensack Riverkeeper's annual clean-up of Overpeck Park in Leonia. Seeing the amount of garbage, you can completely understand how humans created the atrocity that is the Great Garbage Patch.

I spent nearly two hours in the 90 degree heat picking up bottles, mostly water, but also beer, soda and Gatorade. Tires, food containers, plastic bags and other items were in the mix too. Here are some of the frightful images, which speak for themselves.

The cleanup is just 10% of the effort. The rest is about education and changing behavior. We have become waste enablers, allowing for massive consumption and thoughtless disposal. The trick is to enable better behavior and more responsible choices. At my office's kitchen, for example, I've picked up reusable plates, bowls, silverware and glasses at my favorite thrift shop, which many people are now using instead of the disposable alternatives. If you give an easy solution, some (not all) will change their behavior. The same can be said for a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle.

And please, avoid bottled water, which is not a "healthy" choice. On the contrary, it causes great detriment to our health, when you take into account the oil used to produce it, the fuel spent transporting it, and pollution it creates sitting in the landfill. I always find great irony that many of the people who insist on consuming it are willing to pay a premium, but short change animals by buying the cheapest eggs, milk and meat available, which we all know means the worst welfare standards possible. Many of these same bottled water consumers seem to show little concern about the pesticides their food is grown with.

Please be an activist in your own microcosms (your workplace, home and among friends), both for the animals and the environment. Ingrid Newkirk tells us, "Most important things have been done because just one person cared. Please, don't ever be afraid of seeming radical. All the best people in history have been radical." The only thing radical to me is being a silent witness to this environmental destruction and not being an activist.

The next Hackensack Riverkeeper clean-up is Saturday, May 16, in Staib Park, Hackensack. Click here for a full list of clean-ups.
If you haven't already, check out FLOW (For Love of Water), about the world water crisis. Check out their extensive Take Action page to learn what you can do.

No comments: