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Posted February 4, 2013

What's Your Environmental Mindset?

Eugene Hemrick

When I was a teen-ager our home had a dirt driveway that one year needed to be dug out. It was early spring and the frost in the ground made digging near impossible. In utter frustration I found a pick and began ever so slowly to chip away at the surface.

Once I broke through the top layer, the job became a snap because the frozen ground came out in big hunks quickly. That simple experience taught me that once you find the right approach, you can conquer the earth with speed and ease.

Wonderful as this fact is, it has a dark side.

It means we've found approaches that destroy forests at the rate of one and one-half acres per second and along with them thousands of living species that never can be replaced.

It means we continue to generate waste in the United States at a rate that exceeds twice the average body weight of every American every day.

It means dead dolphins wash up along the Mediterranean Coast, their immune systems weakened by too much pollution.

It means we have found quick and easy ways to break through the barriers that have kept our vast forests, oceans and river systems in order. In doing so we have set in rapid motion destructive forces that may be irreversible.

In the book, "Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit" Albert Gore tells us that the ecological destruction we are experiencing is the result of our loss of faith in the future. We are losing touch with the earth and losing the desire to invest in long-term plans for the environment.

I would add that severe economic problems also have focused our attention on personal survival. Once so focused, survival of the environment tends to become a secondary concern.

To stop environmental destruction, Gore calls for a Global Marshall Plan, a Stewardship Council and a Strategic Environment Initiative. He would like to see our massive technological developments made a reality in poor nations so that they can phase out old technology injurious to the environment.

The Stewardship Council would act much like the U.N. Security Council, monitoring the global environment, however, rather than dealing with war and peace.

When I hear talk like this on ecology, I wonder what each of us presently is doing about the environment. If we aren't doing anything, the spirit needed to make Gore's global vision possible won't be there.

Which leads me to raise some simple questions.

How much of the paper and aluminum cans we use ourselves get recycled? One-fourth? Half? All? When did we last walk to a destination instead of driving when the opportunity presented itself? Is energy efficiency at home a priority for us? What about our workplaces? If environmental responsibility at work costs a business something in terms of dollars and cents, do we consider it out of the question?

Obviously, such questions concern particulars. What about our mindset?

Do we feel the new focus on preserving the environment is a kick that will go away once all this scare of global warming settles down? Are we still waiting to be convinced that action on behalf of the environment is truly necessary?

In terms of history, it didn't take long to place our environment in jeopardy. It needn't take long to set it right if we are properly disposed to do so.