At top, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo shows pollution
on Laysan Island in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National
Monument in the Pacific. Ocean plastic harms sea creatures
like the whale above and baby sea turtle below.
By J. C. Stevens
Having lived longer than most of my readers, I know a thing or two about a simpler way of life.
It may be hard to believe, but when I was growing up you could not get plastic bags at the grocery store, plastic straws at restaurants, or plastic containers full of water, soda or milk. Bags and straws were all paper, and soda and milk bottles were glass. The daily newspaper never came wrapped in a plastic bag unless it was raining, and just about everybody drank water from the tap. If you needed liquid refreshment at school or work, you’d sip from a drinking fountain or the thermos in your lunchpail. On a hike, you’d take a swig from an army surplus canteen.
Gas prices weren’t as awful then as they are now, but most kids walked, bicycled, or rode a bus to school. In my case, I walked or biked several miles a day to and from school. Needless to say, I was wonderfully skinny back then.
Even now, I try to walk everywhere within two miles of my home unless I need to buy something too bulky to lug home in my reusable shopping bag. On the days I do need to drive, I plan ahead to do several tasks at once. Generally, I don’t drive at all three days a week, and I'm trying to increase that to four or five non-driving days.
I confess that I used to hate getting stuck behind a slowpoke driver. But now that I’ve got a hybrid car I actually love driving slow. If you stay under the speed limit, just using the battery, you can get by on hardly any gasoline at all.
The hero in my Dragon Lad trilogy transforms from a boy to a fire-breathing dragon. Wouldn't it be cool if humans could transform in the opposite direction and not be such fossil-fuel burning beasts? Everyone knows that driving burns fossil fuel, leading to climate change. But did you know that oil is an ingredient in most plastics? I am convinced that if people would stop using and buying so much plastic, gas prices would go down a lot. Making plastic may take up an estimated 10 percent of the U.S. oil supply.
Holidays are one area where we could really pare plastic. Simply reusing what we buy season after season would help. When I was in elementary school, my family had a life-size, jointed cardboard skeleton that my mother carefully preserved between Halloweens. It decorate the front door on Halloween for my entire childhood. Even now, for Christmas, I decorate my house and tree with the same ornaments she used.
Why am I writing this? Because, if we love Mother Earth, we have to change. Things that may make us happy for a moment may not make the wildlife around us happy. Not the turtles that get straws in their noses, not the birds that eat bits of balloon or become ensnared in balloon strings, not the whales that consume microplastics along with their fish and plankton And not the Pacific Islanders who have to clean mountains of plastic trash that ocean currents dump on their beaches.
Life in the slow lane is beautiful. Consuming less saves money and the planet.