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Jim Walker: Earth Day and loss of innocence

Don't Take Me Seriously

Posted: April 20, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 20, 2012 1:55 a.m.

This Sunday marks Earth Day 2012 — the 42nd annual celebration of a 1970 event that was designed to promote environmental awareness and protection. And the question that naturally comes to mind after all that time is: Has Earth Day succeeded in those goals?

Well, there’s good news and bad news on the environmental front, and I will let better minds than mine be the judge. But two things disturb me above all.

(1)  I still drive a V-8 gas guzzler (though it guzzles less than a 1970 version).

And, far worse …

(2)  I’m 42 years older.

I mean, seriously, viewed through the innocently-hopeful eyes of a 1970 high school senior, Earth Day, and the greater Age of Aquarius, in general, was supposed to change the world. And I mean change the world, not just polish it a little and call it new.

Why, there sonny, I can still remember us sitting-in on the school lawn with our pro-environment posters, ditching class, smokin’ … stuff … and justifying it all through social consciousness. We figured all we had to do was make people aware of serious issues and everyone would come together to solve those issues in no time.

We never factored in the laziness, stubbornness, ignorance, short-sightedness, selfishness and greed that are innate to our species. And we certainly never thought we, ourselves, would be the perpetrators of environmental abuse, some 42 years later. 

But we are, and we really have no excuses, my friends. Among other crimes, we are still driving cars that burn fossil fuels when, by this time, we were supposed to be zipping around in the sky in Jetsonmobiles powered by universal goodwill.

And I, for one, am ashamed.

Why, I might even think about, you know, maybe sometime doing something differently — like when gas prices reach above $5 a gallon. I mean, at that point, my greed will partner up with my altruism and kick my laziness in the butt. And then, look out people, “the times they (will be) a-changin’.”

Now, I know we were all young and flexible, ridiculously hopeful, and maybe even blissfully ignorant back in the day. We felt we were invincible. We needed to own nothing and build nothing. We knew we could live off the fat of the land, nibbling on leftovers the little birdies and fishes joyfully offered up to us when left to their own devices. 

Of course, that was because our parents were footing the bill then — so, you know, we could be all “green” and Bambi-lovin’.

But, somewhere between that youthful exuberance and the siege mentality that approaching retirement, bifocals, stiff muscles, brittle bones and 42 years of struggling in the “real world” have beaten into us — somewhere between those two extremes — lies the change that we did bring to the world. We did accomplish some good, my friends.

Now, I firmly believe nothing good ever gets accomplished unless it begins with foolish hope. Fearful old people don’t change the world. Bold young ones do. And I feel sorry for any generation that sets out on the sea of adulthood with materialism as its primary goal. They have already lost the battle. And if our children are that generation, then double shame on us.

(Let’s see what the little ingrates do with the national debt we’ve left them, tee hee.)

But we are not through yet, flower children. Though we may be stiff and cranky, forgetful and fearful for the years we have left — though we desire only to be left alone, hoarding our cookies behind compound walls and bitching about how the world has gone to hell — we must remember we derided our parents for doing exactly the same. And, if only so they can’t say “I told you so,” we need to remember how we started out. We need to hearken back to that innocence and hope, and get out and do something once more.

I mean, attend a demonstration, or pick up some litter. Ride your bike instead of driving. At the very least, it might lubricate your joints.

Sunday is Earth Day. Are you going to do something about it?

Maybe start the day with a little Dylan to get you in the mood:

“Gather ’round people, wherever you roam …”

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