Every Day Is Earth Day
Environmentalists have specific interests. They are interests that not everyone will appreciate. I am not a particularly serious environmentalist, yet I had a bit of a rep with my older son's first grade teacher because I wouldn't send disposable items into school. Little Will volunteered to bring in spoons for Ice Cream Sundae Day in the spring. "But your mother will want to send real spoons instead of plastic," Mrs. F. objected. "I'll fix it," Little Will promised. And he did, because I felt guilty about making problems for my child. Then I felt guilty because, sure, I could have made my kid hand out stainless steel spoons, pick them up after they were used, and bring them home dirty in one of the grocery bags I save to reuse. I wouldn't have made him wash them. I would have done that. Instead, I bought plastic spoons and sent them directly into the transfer station with just a brief stop in a first-grade classroom.
It's hard to have fun, even with your family, when you believe everything you do matters so very, very much. That's a point made in the following excerpt from Saving the Planet & Stuff.
"Aren't golf courses already environmentally friendly?" he asked. "You know, green grass and no buildings. And I bet those little golf carts get terrific gas mileage."
Nora rolled her eyes. "Golf courses are ecological disasters—all those chemicals to kill weeds. Plus, they're a terrible drain on the water table. But one of my daughters-in-law plays golf with her parents, and I have a grandson who is on his high school golf team. I could play with them, if I knew how. Golfing is just awful, of course, but my kids and grandchildren don't want to go on wildlife tours with us or visit native craftspeople or travel to the desert to view lunar eclipses. We have nothing to do together. And it's amazing how quickly you run out of small talk about drilling for oil in national parks." She sighed. "We need to do a multigenerational eco-recreation article for The Wife. Other people must be having these problems."
No one I know, Michael thought.
"There isn't anyone in your family who wants to take the alternative-energy tour with you? Your kids don't want to visit strange worlds?" he asked. "Because a windfarm has got to be a really strange place."
"Their idea of visiting strange worlds is walking through those foreign pavilions in Epcot at Disney World," Nora said sadly.
"Oh, those are good."
A guilty look flashed across Nora's face. "I went golfing while we were on this last vacation. Just once. My son and daughter-in-law took me along when they went to play with her parents. Now, of course, I didn't really know what I was doing because I'd never done it before, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It was like going for a walk with friends on a nice day, but at the same time playing a game."
"Yeah, I think that's what golf is supposed to be."
"Then we went out to lunch. I wish I could find a golf course with a vegetarian restaurant. At least if there were a restaurant at a golf course that wasn't involved with destroying other life-forms … well, maybe that would help to make being there seem less wrong."
Michael stared at her. "Being at a golf course is lame and uncool, but it isn't wrong. Wait. What am I thinking? Of course being lame and uncool is wrong."
Nora gave him a patient smile. "If we want to see changes made in our world, we can't support and use the very things we want to change. What reason would there be to change them?"
Michael shrugged. "Microsoft changes Windows every couple of years even though tens of thousands of people use it just the way it is. And I bet Bill Gates doesn't refuse to use Windows while his employees are working on it."
"I suppose change can come from the inside," Nora said thoughtfully.
"Or not at all, because golf is just a game."
Nora laughed. "Nothing is just a game," she said as they got up and started to clear the table together.
I've said here before that I'm not sure what an environmental theme is. "Climate change" isn't a theme, to me. It's a topic. The same with "the environment" or "the rain forest." In my humble opinion, theme needs a verb.
Saving the Planet & Stuff has more than one theme. But its environmental theme is that environmentalism is hard. Environmentalism is a lifestyle that requires thought and choices every single day. Michael doesn't become a big-time environmentalist as a result of his experience with Walt and Nora. But he comes to understand what their lives have been about.