When I was a kid in the 70’s, Conservation was a new important topic. We were starting to really be aware of pollution. We had thick brown smog in Los Angeles. You could see it laying heavily on the city in the summertime when you drove to the beach. Oil rigs near San Pedro smelled like rotten eggs. Graffiti and litter were common. I remember the lines at the gas stations when they ran out of gas. I also remember that there were certain days of the week that you could buy gas depending on the odd or even last number on your license plate. Driving behind a gas guzzler spewing black smoke into the air was commonplace. The first school folders I had were beautiful pictures of trees and forests. I remember the crying American Indian commercial asking us to not litter because America was supposed to be kept beautiful. The news covered things like acid rain, climate change, emerging solar power, community gardens and ecology. People recycled bottles, cans, and newspapers. Plastic recycling was just starting. As a nation, we knew that we had to do better. Everybody seemed to agree back then. I don’t remember the environment being politicized back then. I remember doing a report based on a National Geographic article that I read for school. The article talked about how we were developing the technology to convert garbage into fuel and someday, our cars might run on garbage fuel. Grocery bags were made out of brown paper. We saved them and covered our school books with the paper sacks. We brought our lunches to school in lunch boxes or brown sacks. We didn’t have plastic water bottles. We drank tap water. We didn’t upgrade our appliances or electronics every time a newer model was released. We kept things until they broke. Then we fixed them until they were worn out. We didn’t have Ziploc bags or plastic grocery bags. Closets were smaller because we didn’t have as many clothes. Houses were smaller too. We didn’t have as much “stuff”. There was still time to clean up our act. We worked hard to do that – for a while.
Did we just get bored with conserving and cleaning things up? Did we make enough progress that we thought it didn’t matter anymore? Are we just desensitized to pollution, poison and chemicals in our water and air? Oil spills occur so often that they don’t hardly make the news anymore. Is profit more important than your children and their children?
Does Conserving clean air and water have to be the enemy of business and capitalism? Or, do responsible business practices ensure that we will have a planet to support future business. Have we become short-sighted while chasing dollars? The perils that our planet face are not manufactured news stories. Environmental Science is not partisan. We may vote every 4 years for a new President and more often for other elected officials. But, we vote every day in a much more important way. We choose what businesses flourish and which ones die with our purchases and our hard-earned dollars. Be mindful of what you support and keep alive.