Quick little story: during our record-breaking polar vortex deep freeze whatchamacallit, our furnace broke. Thank you, universe, for picking such a prime time to kill off our faithful heating machine. I shall never take it for granted anymore, so I appreciate the reminder. (Read: sarcasm.) Luckily, I had to work all day that day so I was nice and toasty warm in various yoga studios working up a sweat while my dear, incredibly appreciated, boyfriend froze his beard and butt off at home waiting for the repair guy to come and go and come and go until the furnace was finally fixed.
Anyway, now that we're warm and back in business, Mother Nature is sending us onto 60 degree weather and boy, we're not going to let that pass us by. But all of this talk of hiking reminded me of the last time we went exploring in our local Metro Parks. These parks are run by volunteers and employees who are paid so little it's practically a labor of love to preserve and bring these parks to the beautiful gems they are. Unfortunately, even with all these people who dedicate their time to the parks, there's just not enough bodies or time to truly keep it clean and maintained. That's where we come in.
As people who visit and partake in these little nature gems, it's up to us to continue their work where they can't. That means staying out of roped off areas that are set up to preserve growing eco-systems, respecting the boundaries of the trail, and most importantly, not leaving anything that doesn't belong in the parks.
It is so disheartening to look over the ledge into a grand waterfall and see a floating pile of trash under a bank. I can't fathom how anyone can rationalize dropping an extra-large styrofoam cup into the river. Do they think that there's some kind of park custodian picking up after them? Are they under the impression the styrofoam cup will eventually dissolve and disappear? Do they really just not care about the effects of what they just did?
It makes me sick to know there's people out there who literally just don't give a shit. They view the earth as theirs for the taking and theirs for the abuse. They walk around with a sense of entitlement and denial: "Climate change? Nah that's just something the liberals invented to scare us."
Granted, I'm making assumptions and putting a made-up personality to an invisible face. However, these are all the feelings that rise up in me whenever I see a desecrated landscape on my hike.
Our earth is precious. It is a finite resource that is rapidly being depleted due to our own selfish, greedy society. Some of us are just clueless about our impact and that ignorance shouldn't be punished, but it should be remedied. We need more education about how to preserve our home. It isn't our right to reside here on Earth, it is a privilege and we need to respect this amazing gift we've been given.
Luckily, and not so surprisingly if you know him, my boyfriend had a trash bag in his backpack. So we carefully climbed down to the bank and picked up as much trash that would fit in the bag. Then, we carried it back up and placed it where it belonged, in a litter container. Unfortunately, there was still several times more trash than the amount we were able to cram into our bag. However, I can only hope our small gesture made some sort of impact and sent out much needed healing energy to the earth and universe.
So what can you do to help? It's as simple as "pack it in, pack it out." Whatever you bring into a park whether it's the wrapper of a granola bar you've eaten or a full-blown romantic picnic complete with cheese and wine, -no, that wasn't a hint, cough cough- make sure you don't leave anything behind that you didn't find there in the first place.
You can also look into becoming a volunteer for your local park organization or simply just pick up whatever you find on your ventures through the woods. Many parks and organizations host day-long "Clean Up" events that you can join in on. Bring as many friends who are willing and eager to help and spread that love for the earth. That sort of energy is contagious and the more you're willing to pitch in, the more people will be willing to do so alongside you.
Until there's no more trash being left behind, we'll continue to pick it up when we can and continue to remind everyone, there is something you can do to help the earth. It's never too late. The damage can be stopped and maybe even reversed if we make little changes in the way we live and tread lightly on our precious earth.