Blog Action Day: The Environment According to Los Angelista
It's Blog Action Day and I've pledged to devote my post today to some topic related to the environment. I hope next year they pick an action day around promoting racial unity, but I'm down for making changes on behalf of the environment too.
If you've read this blog over the past couple of weeks, you know I've been on a crusade to get the trash in my neighborhood cleaned up. It's terrible to think that there are grown adults that think nothing of throwing their In-and-Out Burger wrapper on the ground after they've eaten it. Adults who have no problem tossing soiled diapers and cigarettes out their car windows. Adults who drink beers and then leave the cans in the street. Oh, and let's not forget all the people who throw broken furniture out on the curb and leave dead, discarded mattress out for animals to urinate on and homeless people to sleep on.
We always think someone else is going to clean up after us. After all, how many of us leave the half-eaten bucket of popcorn, the empty box of Junior Mints and the soda container on the floor of the movie theatre? Or are you one of the few who actually tosses your stuff in the trash?
Of course, here in LA, all that trash tossed away sits on the ground until the rain comes and washes it into the storm drains. The flood channels and the LA River fill up with tons of rushing trash...all floating into the Pacific Ocean. You can't swim in the ocean for a couple of days after it rains here. It's too toxic. Even when it hasn't rained, everyone I know who swims in the ocean eventually gets sick: ear infection, strep throat, weird skin rashes that doctors have never seen before.
Some people might wonder why I should care when I'm not a beach goer. I don't know how to swim and I'm not a fan of my rear in a swimsuit. But, I'm always reminded of my childhood and the one and only time my family went to the beach.
My brother and sister had a class trip to the shores of Lake Michigan. I don't know all the details, all the whys and hows of the trip, and how exactly my family ended up tagging along, but I do know that we ended up at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
It's a beautiful place. Sand dunes that rise over 100 feet in the air and rare species of butterflies. All that was pretty, but I really remember marveling at the beautiful smoke coming from the steel mills and other factories directly west of the dunes. Sure, the air smelled horrible when driving through Gary and Hammond, but from a distance, the billowing clouds of white and yellow smoke that poured from those factories were pretty. They were only a nuisance because they blotted out parts of the Chicago skyline. And I thought nothing of the possible pollution provided by the NIPSCO power plant on the eastern side of the dunes in Michigan City.
I didn't connect either the factories or the smoke to the dead fish floating in the water as I bounced in the waves. I threw one of those dead fish at my brother. He screamed in terror and rushed from the water to tell my mother. I was promptly sentenced to spending the rest of the afternoon sitting on a blanket next to her.
It was only years later when I lived in China that I really began thinking about the environment. If I didn't cover my nose with a scarf or an oxygen mask while I was out riding my bike, I'd develop nasal irritation. The snot that came out of my nose was black from inhaling the pollution. In China, I never saw a blue sky with the sun glowing like a ball of flame. Instead, the sun was obscured behind a thick haze of coal smoke and other nameless pollutants.
I know a lot of people who hate environmentalists. They say environmental activists care more about saving trees than saving people. They say being an environmentalist is a pastime for middle class white folks who need a cause to latch onto. They say that the same environmentalists that fight illegal toxic waste dumping by corporations would be horrified if their child had to go to school with black folks. Or, they say that Al Gore is a fraud who presents misinformation and has the public believing things about the environment that aren't even true.
Maybe. But it's still important work. I can't imagine what the air in LA would be like if environmental activists didn't do what they do. And, when I walk my two sons to school and I see the amount of trash that my fellow Angelenos throw on the ground, I know that it's not just CEOs at power plants that need to change the way they think about the environment.
We all have to do our part, including me. Thanks to blogger Sundry, I'm taking October and pledging to break the bottled water habit. I'm once more best friends with a Brita filter instead. If you want to join us, then go to this site and find out how you can make small changes too.
Every little bit we do counts.