Wednesday, 25 September 2019

I feel sorry for Greta Thunberg

When I was a child I lived on Long Island in New York. Our house was located on the only road down to the water that ended with a small boat yard. It was kind of a peninsula. My father had an outboard motor boat that we would use for family outings and fishing. Next to our house was I guess what you would call marshland. It was huge and beautiful. The cattails would grow so high you could not see to the water. I remember one day standing there looking out on the marsh and a sad feeling came over me that has never left in my entire life. It all started before I was 10 years old looking at that marsh. My parents had just told me that the marsh would be bulldozed, the waterline would be bulk-headed and houses would be built. My childhood friends and I had built an underground fort, It was just a hole in the ground that we threw a piece of plywood over and called it a fort. On the day the bulldozers arrived I remember watching as the machine hit the fort and fell in. It was not very deep but it fell in and I was happy that I had impeded their progress. It didn’t matter, they carried, on the homes were built and it was the reason we eventually packed up and moved to a farm in Maryland.

In the seventies I wanted a car. It was difficult because everyone at that time wanted a big car, a gas guzzler and at that time there was a gas shortage. I did not want one. I wanted a small car that used less gas. I found one. It was old and ratty and made in Germany and a serviceman had brought it back when his tour was over. In Europe they seemed to already know about economy and maybe they were aware of environmental issues, I don’t know, all I knew then was I used less gas which meant I was putting less stuff into the air. I was part of the environmental group in high school. It was the only club I joined in all my high school years. We had a bottle drive. We collected a lot of bottles and took them to a bottle place in Baltimore. Once. That was the end of that.
Then the gas came back, people forgot about all that, plastic became the order of the day, the population grew and I watched.

Not everyone can be an activist.

Not everyone has the time or energy to go out and fight for something even if you believe in it. From what I see and have always seen is that it is a very painful process. People hate you, ignore you, make fun of you and often react in the opposite direction. I think we call them haters? So you say why, a logical thing that will help people, why would people hate it? Who knows, do we have time to go to each one and ask them the reason they hate. So you look to the people that don’t hate. The ones that say this is a good thing, we should do something. They all have good intentions. But then they go home, go to the grocery store, buy food wrapped in plastic and don’t say to the store owner stop wrapping in plastic. They eat more meat instead of less meat. They buy take out food or delivered food and throw every bit of it in the trash when they are full. Everyone that can afford a car has a car. Or two. Everyone buys a bigger house as soon as they can afford it. And everyone buys the latest computer, phone, chargers, headsets, TV sets, batteries, water in plastic bottles and when they are done they throw them in the trash.

Clothing, endless amounts that fall apart quickly or are no longer fashionable and are discarded. Toys, Christmas decorations, Halloween decorations, New Years, you name it there are decorations and after it is over they get thrown out and new things are purchased next year, every year. My family used to save ours, in a big box in the attic. Some were very old.

We do the best we can. We live in the Caribbean so we don’t need heat. We could use air conditioning but we don’t but most people I know now do. It is very hot and getting hotter every year. We buy energy efficient cars from Japan. We combine shopping trips to save gas. We installed off grid solar on our house so we don’t take from the diesel powered energy plant. I work hard to buy and discard as little as possible. We live where every single item of food that is thrown out will be eaten by something. I feed our dogs the table scraps first. I try to buy local as often as I can. I have reduced our meat intake. When we could finally afford it we bought a boat. A sailboat. It has an engine but we don’t use it often. It has a wind turbine and solar panels to make energy. Very efficient. Get where you want to go no emissions. Wonderful.

But it doesn’t matter. Me and all my efforts are not even a drop in the bucket. Not even a molecule of a drop in the bucket. Because now my neighbours are entering the material greedy time of their lives. They buy everything they can afford, don’t use it and eventually throw it out so they have room for the next latest thing. Workmen and passersby throw their plastic water and soda bottles into the bush. We are just recovering from a drought. The bush had all gone grey and lost all its leaves so you could see to the ground that is covered in trash that will never go away. At least when the bottles were glass eventually they would break and go back into the ground but the plastic never will. When I look at it I think, why in the world would someone throw their plastic bottle into the bush? You can not ask these people, they would basically tell you to fuck off. The trash bins are piled high with the household discard every week. Every Week. The stores keep bringing in more and more and wrapping all the food in plastic even stuff that never needed plastic before and we keep buying it and throwing it away. And the worst part is that all those efforts to clean up the roadsides and throw your trash in the dumpster is wasted effort. Yes the roadside looks nice but it all ends up in the land fill which is full. Whats next. Well I can tell you because I have seen it. We visited an island recently hit by a bad hurricane. They were throwing all the broken houses, cars and general trash into the sea. Nice. Recycle, yeah right.

Recently Anguilla banned plastic grocery bags, now you have to bring your own. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Finally our garbage problem is solved. Of course all the restaurants are still piling food into Styrofoam containers with plastic forks and people are still buying them everyday. I laugh out load when I hear people talk about plastic straws. Our landfill which was non-existent when I arrived almost 30 years ago is piled high. Not as high as Sint Maarten but we are getting there.

I watch as this young passionate girl cries to the public. She is convincing. Everyone says how great she is, how strong, what a wonderful person we should all listen and follow her lead and then we see a popup on the phone that some celebrity has just got another face job and we are so glad that this young person is taking care of all our problems so we can go back to regular life.

I have had this sadness all of my life. Every time I throw a Styrofoam container (that the broccoli came in for some reason) into the trash I feel a real pain inside. Every single time.

So I feel sorry for Greta. She has the pain, it is real. She decided to throw herself under the bus for planet earth. The media and governments were happy to allow her to gain celebrity, it takes the heat off of them and she is entertaining and she created more news, giant protests that last a day, I am impressed. And just as quickly when people stop clicking on the links because they are tired of hearing a young person whine about the environment, we fixed that right or she fixed it or she is famous now, good for her, she has her own TV show, so can we go back to being oblivious please.

You know when I will be impressed. When the world stops relying on diesel for heat and fuel, gasoline too. When people stop driving cars that run on fossil fuels. Electric cars really work, they are not perfect but it’s a start. Stop burning forests so more wasted food can be bought and sold. Stop raping the oceans, too late most of them are already empty. Oh except for plastic so how about figure out ways to use plastic so it becomes valuable and not a landfill item. But I just don’t see it happening. People are always evolving. When some of us start to realize that doing all this stuff is really bad, others are saying I am too tired to cook, let’s get takeout, I finally have enough money for a new phone, laptop, TV, car or just about anything. I don’t feel like having this bottle in my car so I will throw it out on the road, someone will pick it up.
And you can absolutely NOT change their minds because in their minds they are entitled to these things, they earned it.

And that is why I feel sorry for Greta Thunberg. As we say in Anguilla, All the best to you.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

The Survivors

On September 6, 2017 Anguilla experienced a Cat 5+ hurricane. Although we got pretty lucky that the storm only lasted about 8 hours, the island took a terrible hit to both human structures and nature. 
The north wall of Hurricane Irma ran over the top of Anguilla destroying many of the old houses we all know and love, it also destroyed many of the older large trees that I have admired since coming to Anguilla in 1990. 
It was sad indeed to drive around the island seeing these beautiful giants torn from their home. 
But, some remained, they fought the hurricane and lived. Although we were very busy supplying generators around the island, I got the urge to paint a few of the "Survivors". I even used some hurricane lumber to paint a few of them. 

The old Tamarind tree on Meads Bay is still standing proud. A slim coconut tree on the way into the Valley is making new fronds. A Loblolly tree left standing in the Albert Lake memorial on the way to Shoal Bay is eye catching in the morning light and a tiny little tree on the point in Sandy Ground remains tough in the sea spray. 
Knowing how difficult it is to survive in Anguilla's harsh climate, I have always admired all of the trees that live here. Perhaps I will do more as I come upon them.

Monday, 3 July 2017

My story about Hurricane Luis published on Adda

I want to share this link to a story I wrote and it was accepted by the commonwealth writers which is kind of a big deal for me. I write children's books but this was really my first serious story and it is about hurricane I experienced on Anguilla