It’s April 22, 2010, and the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day. I was part of the first Earth Day movement, while living in Maine. I do believe the statement that “As Maine goes, so goes the nation,” about so many things… But not all things. Maine is backwards as regards wine being regulated. They’re coming in about last on that one.
As far as environmental issues go, however, they’ve outstripped California in some of the most basic essentials, perhaps because most people in Maine live so close to the earth. There’s so much water in Maine, that it’s just part of daily life. It’s called Vacation Land, because of all its lakes and ponds. We had a summer home on Sabattus Lake, where my brother and his family still live. I raised my kids on Allen Pond, where the images of swimming in the summer and skating in the winter now live in my mind’s eye. That serenity hasn’t been found, yet, in my 17 years here; although I might find it at Yellowstone. It’s definitely not found at Lake Tahoe. Compared to my memories of skiing at Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine, Lake Tahoe reminds me of Old Orchard Beach in Maine, or the Boardwalk in New Jersey… Pristine over commercialism, if you’ve never been to any of these places.
It’s apples to oranges in wine country…
We couldn’t burn leaves in Maine during autumn. We did when I was a kid, but air quality became an issue, and burning leaves were banned for many, many years before I left. Leave burning happened once all of the trees had dropped their autumn splendor. Once the ban went into effect, they had to be composted. Imagine my shock when I arrived in California, and witnessed all the burning of vines, once pruning had happened. Big piles of vines – and some times an entire vineyard pulled out – burn like a house on fire. Seeing the smoke in the distance, we don’t know whether or not to report a potential fire in the distance. It’s very concerning on many levels.
I’ve composted all my fruits and vegetable clippings ever since Earth Day 1970. My waste management company last year told my area that we can now begin to put our fruits and vegetable clippings in our “green” bins. (Thanks, guys, but I’ve been doing that for the last 17 years.) Imagine the millions of people out here who were just beginning to understand that concept.
Maine was one of the very first states to recycle… anything… most especially containers: glass, plastic, and metal. It wasn’t until about a year after I arrived in California that we got a recycle bin.
I will say one thing for my area of California, the kids are very quick to learn, which means that the upcoming generations of kids are going to be very astute; and, if I have anything to do with it, environmentally conscious.
I’ve conducted my own research. While it might seem so basic and small, it’s produced monumental results.
I live across the street from a school of third and fourth graders. When we first moved into this neighborhood ten years ago, little did we know how sloppy these wine country kids are. Each year, as the kids turned over, this sloppiness continued.
The messiness is related to how the kids, once out of school, come out, open up candy and gum, throw their paper on our lawn as they passed by, like we’re the local garbage can. Once a week, as Jose would mow the lawn, he’d have to pick up after these kids.I did it during the week, as well.
The year before last, I became so sick of it that I decided to teach these kids about the importance of being “green.” For an entire year, I picked up their mess, paper from candy and gum, pencils and pens, water bottles and juice boxes, report cards that they didn’t want to go home… the list goes on. Just before Earth Day, I put it all onto a poster. As you can see, it completely filled this nasty demonstration.
Now, showing them how ugly their behavior was, wasn’t going to win their hearts, unless I tied something special to the lesson, so I also gave the school the movie “Wall E.” If you haven’t seen this one, it’s a post people on earth movie, with a robot living in the earth’s garbage. Because that’s all that’s left, the earth has become a fairly disgusting place… but Wall E is lovable, regardless. It’s a great movie for quietly and persuasively teaching children environmental consciousness.
I had also spoken to the principal before delivering my poster and movie to the school, because without her support this whole Earth Day project of mine was going to be for naught.
What happened after my quiet Earth Day movement?
The garbage just went away from our yard… almost in entirety. I was astounded, amazed, and dazed.
When the children returned this year, I thought, “Well, here we go again, with a whole new set of third graders.”
Nope… something transformative had really happened. After about a month of this miracle, I thought, “I need to reward this school.” I called the principal from Costco. I told her that I wanted to buy something for every child in the school. It would be my way of rewarding their excellent behavior. I asked how many children she had in the school. It’s just shy of 600.
I didn’t know that there are that many kids over there.
She rescued me, by suggesting a pencil for each. Not bad, about $70. It honestly was the best $70 I had ever spent, when considering how much bending over both Jose and I had to do, prior to my Poster of Disgust.
Pencils were given to the kids with a thank you note from me; our lawn and driveway continue to be on self-clean.
The few items I’ve picked up this year, as compared to last year show this miraculous turn around.
Also, this year the kids are being given the “Bee Movie.” As I ponder why bee populations are diminishing and also being born with birth defects, I can’t help but wonder about all the chemicals that we’re using in our gardens… Insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides.
I’m an organic gardener. I refuse to use anything not natural, because I don’t want anything chemical – when ever possible – to enter my body, so why should I perpetrate that onto the insect population. Hey, I love honey. I love seeing the bees buzzing around my lavender, rosemary, and berries blooming.
In 1970, we chanted, “You are what you eat,” and Your body is your temple.” I still believe these truths today, and since these children are so impressionable and teachable, I’m on my next rip with the “Bee Movie.”
These children are the future farmers of wine country, at some level. They’ll impact a cleaner environment as more sensitive and natural farmers.
“Green” around here isn’t a trend du jour, it’s a way of living, and these kids are the rings of my stone being dropped into the still waters of their youth.