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Arkadelphia Siftings Herald - Arkadelphia, AR
  • Peter Costa: Spring is the time to assess the green

  • Nearly 45 years ago, environmental activists urged everyone to say goodbye to Mrs. Robinson, leave their plastic worlds and commune with nature. Going green, they said, would not only protect the planet but also save the soul.

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  • Nearly 45 years ago, environmental activists urged everyone to say goodbye to Mrs. Robinson, leave their plastic worlds and commune with nature. Going green, they said, would not only protect the planet but also save the soul.
    I was out in Berkeley, Calif., in the late 1960s when this movement started. I attended rallies and watched demonstrations big and small to become more sensitized to the needs of the planet and the wants of the people.
    Along with the science and politics of the movement, there was a corresponding drive to connect to our own natural surroundings.
    We were urged to make it personal. For many, this merely meant protecting the grass in the common area of the graduate student apartment complex or caring for your vegetables at the Berkeley co-op garden area. For others, it meant suing Exxon Mobil and pushing back factory-sized whaling ships.
    I took the make-it-personal advice and started “talking” to the trees. I never went so far as to hug trees –– although I admit to enjoying the touch of a curved oak bracing the honey-colored hull of a canoe. In those hectic days, I would spend my free afternoons reading under a tree and using a fallen leaf as a bookmark.
    I had a friend at Berkeley, who was also a journalist, but unlike me, he was much more of an activist. We used to ride in his Volkswagen camper bus from tear-gassed Telegraph Avenue to the leafy quiet of the Berkeley Hills. His uncle was a famous writer, and my friend had use of his uncle’s Hills house while he was traveling.
    The house featured various kinds of wood with wavy grain and a study that had a panoramic view of San Francisco Bay. We spent hours drinking coffee, looking down at San Francisco Bay and talking about Vietnam, civil rights and the environment –– among other things.
    My friend worried about the polarization between the left and the right. In those fractious days at the ramparts, one was either “part of the solution or part of the problem.”  “Your country, right or wrong, love it or leave it,” was another popular phrase.
    I was, or thought I should be, in the middle. My friend, however, was more to the left. He would yell at drivers of cars that belched smoke.
    “Get that polluter off the road. You’re ruining the environment,” he would bravely say to a car filled with huge guys who would dwarf defensive linemen. Coward that I was, I would try to sink a little deeper into the passenger’s seat.
    I am reminded of these happenings 45 years ago because this week marks the arrival of spring 2012, when people’s attention turns to the outdoors. I recall the early days of the environmental movement, and I wonder how my life and connection to the environment measure up as a suburbanite decades removed from the early protests.
    Page 2 of 2 - Despite all the years, I am still trying to figure out what is rhetoric and what is real. I try to recycle and vote for environmental protection plans, but I admit to being, like many people today, only marginally involved.
    I do know that I still sit with my back against a tree and use a fallen leaf as a bookmark. The only difference I can detect is the size of the type in the book. It is decidedly harder for me to read.
    Peter Costa is a columnist for GateHouse Media. His latest collection of humor columns, “Outrageous CostaLiving,” is available at amazon.com

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