My First Earth Day

My first Earth Day, that I can remember, I went with a group of fellow high schoolers to pick up trash along a local creek. Upon arrival at our service site we quickly learned that our little trash bags were no match for the truck tires, abandoned appliances, and slimy oil that covered the stale water. The banks of the river were lined with the back fences of small industrial buildings—an auto body shop, car repair, liquor store. Clearly a lot of refuse was thrown over those fences.

We did what we could. I remember dragging out a few car tires and collecting lots of beer cans. We were eager young people trying to make a difference. The place did look better when we left. We wondered, though, what difference it would make when the workers returned on Monday and resumed their usual practices.

Earth Day seems to welcome the cynic questioning of little acts of trash-collecting that are popular with school groups. What good does it do?

I left with a feeling of satisfaction from our creek clean-up. The place did look better, and what if no one even tried? But I also took with me other feelings—anger at those who made the mess, frustration at the lack of rules and values to stop it, and conviction to try to change things.

So I hope we all clean up our Mother Earth on her day. Not only so that she will look better, but that we will feel worse. This is the beginning of real change for the earth.

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