Saturday, March 13, 2010

I Remember . . . When Eco-Awareness Meant Not Littering

Above: Trash left by festival goers the day after a March 2007 event in Clearwater. The entire park area behind the chain link fence was covered with cups, bottles, plates, napkins, and other garbage.

My first official speaking engagement came when, as a high school junior, I was invited to speak about environmental awareness at a Southern California civic club meeting.

My biology teacher had formed an Ecology Club -- a somewhat radical idea during that 1969-1970 academic year that straddled two decades and bridged the uneasy era between all-out support for American involvement in Vietnam and the country's eventual about face.

As president of the new club, and as a member of our school’s forensics (debate) team, I was a natural choice for this teacher to suggest for a speaker at a local Rotary? Lions? meeting.

Air, water, and land pollution were somewhat new rallying cries for us back then. Smog in the L.A. basin often spilled into Orange County, obscuring Saddleback Mountain with a greasy haze. Various water quality acts and other legislation had just been passed -- with the goal of eliminating industrial pollution by 1985.

Anti-littering campaigns were in full swing.

A few weeks ago, I attended a private screening of a newly released motion picture at a local theater. As an alumna of the same college as the author of the book on which the movie was based, I received an invitation exclusive to those affiliated with the college.

We went and we watched, including all of the credits -- a quirk of ours. Then we stood up to leave, and we surveyed the half-eaten bags of popcorn, drink cups, napkins, candy wrappers, and other trash left on the floor at more than half the seats of this college-affiliated crowd, many of whom profess concern about the problems of carbon emissions and global warming.

I was ashamed.

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