Live out your environmental beliefs

One day in early September, I went to a park to study and, as usual, I biked there. Anyway, I passed one of those ridiculous H2 Hummer vehicles: a red one. It immediately pissed me off. A flurry of thoughts like, “That is the true portrait of American excess” bubbled in my mind. I thought of the gas it wastes (seven miles to the gallon doesn’t go far in a third-ring suburb) and everything it symbolizes. My annoyance at the values held by so many people in my society grew. Then, it all passed. I continued biking toward the park to study psychology.

On my way home from the park, I passed a tree nursery and once again, anger welled up in me. The people caring for the young trees decided to water them. The catch? It was 3 p.m., and though I’m not sure of the exact outdoor temperature, the forecast predicted highs in the upper 80s and sunny weather. I watched in disgust as the precious fresh water evaporated under the burning sun, at a time in the season when 49 counties in Minnesota have been declared in a state of emergency because of a drought. This nursery was just shooting water into the afternoon sun as though a monsoon had just swept across the land.

OK, I thought, maybe the leaves need to be sprinkled with water so they don’t dry out and die. But then I noticed the wide dirt pathways flooding with excess run-off and that the sprinklers were shooting high above the trees. Much of the water not surviving the sun’s rays and were not plummeting back down to the thirsty trees. It was sad; such a waste of a necessity. Then the feeling passed, and I biked on.

Shortly thereafter, I approached a neighborhood of large houses, none with anything less than a three-car garage and $2,000 in front lawn landscaping. And just by chance, I turned my gaze to a house on my left, where I saw the same red Hummer in one of the driveways, four blocks (at most) from the parking spot where I initially spotted it a few hours earlier. At that point I settled into confusion. How can someone be that lazy? Sure, there could have been extenuating circumstances, but four blocks? I was flabbergasted to see the Hummer sitting in the driveway. Then, letting my incredulity fade, I biked home.

What else could I have done? No one wants to hear about how oblivious and wasteful he or she is; in fact, telling that to someone might only make him bitter against a progressive social cause.

I’ve seen a lot of University students who want to change our society for the better, using grassroots organizations and other advocacy groups to spread their messages, and that is beautiful. But I say proceed with caution on that path. The American public won’t change its wasteful ways because a bunch of college student “advocates” are preaching it.

Instead, teach by example. Make change by example. Live your ideals religiously and people will notice and be curious. This is where social change begins. We, as students concerned about our nation’s future, need to incorporate ideals into our lives and actions. Our example, and the examples of many others, will affect the masses. That is social change.

Melissa Maxa is a sophomore. She welcomes comments at [email protected]