The April 24th headline news “Town is 12th in R.I. to ban single use plastic bags” is a nice Earth Day present as we realize that one day a year on April 22 may not be enough to save life on this planet. Grass-roots activism from the bottom up is the best kind as we head in the “leave no trace” direction: 1. Leave nothing but footprints; 2. Take nothing but memories; 3. Kill nothing but time; and 4. Break nothing but the human nature trap to let someone else do it. Sadly the ubiquitous plastic bag: 1. Leaves a big litter trace; 2. Takes away nature’s beauty of unspoiled landscapes; 3. Kills marine wildlife as they mistake plastic bags for food and choke on plastic trash; and 4. Breaks our resolve to make the world a better place.
We can easily adjust as Mr. Song for every occasion. Nobel-winning Bob Dylan’s “Change My Way of Thinking” provides inspiration. The United States’ 20th-century World War II involvement imposed rationing and requested citizens purchase war bonds, which unified the country and helped to fund our war effort as more than 85 million Americans (half the population) purchased bonds totaling $185.7 billion. Further, JFK’s 1961 inaugural address contained what’s been called “positively electrifying, possibly the 17 most inspiring words of the 20th century”: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” with carrying your own reusable tote bag(s) a small “sacrifice” for the greater good of your country and your world. Always keep a tote bag in your car’s trunk or, better yet, backpacked on your bicycle. We must protect the ocean and climate, which both have been very good to us, enabling human propagation that proceeds past sustainability limits, with ocean life and Arctic inhabitants now paying the ultimate price of our untethered success. More recently, after the 9/11 World Trade Center bombings, George W. Bush’s national unification advice (“Don’t be afraid to go shopping”) profoundly invokes how we’ve lost the inspiration to find causes bigger than our insignificant selves.
Maybe we can let Florida, “The Sunshine State,” concentrate on solar power advocacy; New Jersey, “The Garden State,” promote gardens; Tennessee, “The Volunteer State,” encourage volunteer work; etc. But hey Rhode Island, we’re the Ocean State, and the World Economic Forum forecasts by 2050, there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish, with plastic now found in the Mariana Trench. In the western Pacific Ocean, it’s the deepest point in the world, which underscores how pervasive our plastic pollution that permeates our planet is. Plastic rejection, ocean protection, avoid 2050 projection as we change direction. Chinese proverb: “If we don’t change our direction, we’re likely to end up where we’re headed” which most definitely applies to climate change as well, Trump’s World Climate Paris Treaty abandonment notwithstanding. In the 1992 presidential race, climate change considerations bruised “Ozone Man” Al Gore, who regardless continued to promote the issue, subsequently winning the Nobel prize. In the 2020 presidential race, the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change, comprising the world’s top climate experts, says we have until 2030 to reduce emissions and avoid the worst consequences of human-induced climate change. Currently 20-plus Democratic presidential candidates all are trying to distinguish themselves on the best way to confront climate change vs. a Republican president and party that promotes off-shore drilling vs. offshore wind farms where Rhode Island’s Deepwater Wind Block Island wind farm was the country ‘s first. Go Rhode Island! In conclusion, in 2020, let’s not only “change our way of thinking” but change our president, who believes and acts like climate change is a Chinese hoax.