Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In Favor Of Footprints

By age seven, I knew that garbage belonged in trashcans and not wind-swept against chain link fences.
If I saw someone throw a gum wrapper or pop can on the ground, I would pick up after them, astounded at their carelessness.

As an adult, I happily participated in our city’s recycling program, carefully separating glass, plastic and paper into the appropriate section of the green curbside bin. I love the beauty of our world and do what I can to keep it looking fresh and natural.

There’s a trend afoot these days though that disturbs me.  The trend tells me that I not only need to do what I can to keep our world beautiful, but that in order to do so, I have to pretend that I don’t exist.  In other words, I have to erase my “footprint.”

I subscribe to an email newsletter that is pro-animal care and pro-environment care. The newsletter appealed to me because I do care about animals and I do care about our world.  Yet, unlike the publishers of this newsletter, I don’t feel that the best way to help animals or their surroundings is by eliminating humans.

Increasingly, this newsletter, which shall remain unnamed, tells me that I have to do all I can to decrease my impact upon this earth.  I have to switch to energy efficient light bulbs, fuel-efficient vehicles and avoid using aerosol sprays. That’s all right because I’m all about frugality and efficiency. I’m not about human annihilation. Many in the mainstream media support the views held in this newsletter.

A quiz on the newsletter site purports to tell me how much impact I have on the environment, in other words, my carbon footprint. It tells me that in order to justify my current vehicle driving I need to plant 98 maple trees per month. Let me tell you that I don’t drive a lot. During the summer, there are days when I never leave my backyard, and when I do travel, the furthest destination is Walmart, at seven miles away. And yet, to justify my life, I must plant 98 trees per month.  A simple web search tells me that maple trees run from $15-$50 each.  We’ll take the average at $32.50 and I’m spending $3185.00 per month planting trees.  Since we don’t make that much a month, I would have to get a job to support my tree-buying habit.  But I would have to drive to work and so the cycle continues.

Another article in the newsletter tells me that no matter how much I recycle, use cloth bags, conserve energy and plant trees, I still have one big problem remaining. I breathe.  Therefore, no matter how much I try to help our environment, I am still a polluter because I expel carbon dioxide. Yes, they actually said that.  Their solution was for me to eliminate my remaining “footprint” by donating money to companies that are devoted to reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Can I ask you a question that any second-grader can answer?  What do trees take in? Oh, carbon dioxide, you say?  Hmmm….

If I eliminate my carbon footprint, then what in the hell are my 98 maple trees per month going to inhale?

Given that we are to now feel guilty about exhaling, I am going to make a bold statement. I am not going to reduce myself until I am no longer here, just to please over-the-top environmentalists.

I am going to continue exhaling because these friends of mine eat it right up:

I am going to continue making footprints because, to quote Desiderata—“You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.”

I want you to make footprints too. I want you to leave this world, having made an impact. 

I don’t want you to reduce your footprint so drastically that you are ashamed to breathe. I want to see evidence everywhere---in your words, through your art, exploding through your creativity, dripping from your poetry, springing forth from your children---that you lived! That you were here and made a difference!

I want to know that I shared this beautiful world with people who refused to take life sitting down.

These are my feet…happily making footprints ‘til I die…


  1. My wife makes so much sense sometimes it's ridiculous...

  2. Winston: She must be amazing. I'd keep her if I were you.

  3. That's totally awesome - as were those footprints, which were certainly not from Irish descent due to their obvious arches! :P We can still love trees, but it doesn't mean we have to kill ourselves for them!

  4. Jill: Thanks for the smile!

    Juliegoose: The footprints were from Weston and Dash. I agree, we can love trees without feeling guilty for breathing. According to the article I read, unless we somehow atone for exhaling, then we can't be counted amongst those who truly care for our environment.

  5. Oh, Randi: I don't know when I've read anything that makes more sense. I want everyone to read this. Please publish it everywhere.
    May I spread it around to my friends?

  6. Auntie M: Thanks for the nice compliments. You can spread this around wherever you like, but only to people who are ok with exhaling. :)

  7. Get in there Randi!
    That was so funny and full of fight.

    You are absolutely right!

  8. Ken! You wrote me a poem! :) Thanks for the nice words. I am happy to be on the earth at the same time as you. Thanks for leaving us "artprints."

  9. We do want to "be" here in a very physical and spiritual way. With too much fervent environmentalism, I fear that the individuality of each soul here often gets clustered together and forgotten. I think you make many valid points here my friend.

  10. septembermom: And you make a good point as well---"...the individuality of each soul here often gets clustered together and forgotten." Very well said!

  11. Artprints? I thought Americans didn't take to oil-slicks?

  12. Ken: :) You're funny! Americans do hate oil slicks unless they are on your canvas. Then they are a thing of great beauty.


You won't be paid for it, but at least you'll know that you have contributed intelligence to the universe...

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