Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Environmental Trail #1

My first big steps down the trail of environmental consciousness were through the book "Serve God, Save the Planet," but really I was preparing for those steps throughout my life. Appreciating the beauty, fragility and interconnectedness of nature as a whole has long been a part of my life through early camping trips with my family, campouts with the Boy Scouts, and then adventures planned by my friends and me. So if you really wanted to follow or just understand the process that brought me here, to my current thoughts, you really need to start out there. Go walk in the woods. Go float a river. Fly a kite. Watch birds. Sleep under the stars in your backyard. Visit a national park.

I think that going to these places, experiencing these "outdoor" type things, is more than just appreciating the beauty of the world around us, although that is a very good reason to go do those things. Instead, I think the importance comes more from the act of remembering that these places foster.

When we live in cities, in suburbs, we forget that we are actually dependent on the nature around us for our very survival. Food does not magically spring up at grocery stores. Gasoline does not condense out of the air into the fuel pumps. Electricity does not spontaneously and naturally flow through the wires that run to our houses and places of employ. Everything we do depends intimately on the natural world. Everything we see, whether a house, a car, a pair of Nike shoes, or the fajitas you ate last night for dinner, all of it comes from Nature. Someone mined the metal, harvested the grain, raised the beef, cut the trees...whatever the base product might be.

The processes that companies use to give us our modern conveniences affect us in myriad ways. The electricity that runs a factory comes from coal that was strip mined out of hills - probably in West Virginia or other Appalachian states. Many of the machines that mill, stitch, or assemble require some kind of cooling...which usually comes from our streams and lakes. This water is fed in, and used to cool down the machines, making the water hot. It goes back into the source from which it was drawn. And that is the most benign interaction with the local water ways. Chemicals might be added in order to dye or treat fabrics, to wash products, to make a special finish. This chemical water solution will often be dumped back into the rivers and lakes. Heat and air and vapors from chemical processes are also loosed into the air, floating on air currents to surrounding areas, or countries a world away.

These interactions are found just in the creation of a product. Our air, our water, our land is forever altered by each and every thing we create.

So when I read "Serve God, Save the Planet" I already had a sense of this interdependence. SGSP serve to take that interdependence and make it tangible. I had numbers - quanities of waste, cost of electricity. I had stories - devastating increases in environmental diseases and the damage they wrought on families. Most importantly, I also had solutions - I had actions, choices, presented in such a way that my own impact, while small, was still significant.

I began to conserve.

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

^_^

Adam said...

I assume you will be taking us along and describing your major changes (or minor ones that add up).

I will start... Not that I didn't have the desire to recycle before, but because of a recent visit by a good tall guy, we now have a paper bag full of items ready to be recycled.

dana said...

Hello,

Cory Driver suggested I talk with you soon. I'm a senior at Purdue and applying for Teach For America. If you have some time this month, I would really appreciate hearing your experiences. My e-mail address is drslater@purdue.edu.

Thanks,
Dana Slater

Tony said...

jake~

you better start posting on this blog again or else i will stop checking it. :) that is a threat from a friend.

~tony

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