Written by Ned Clarke
Happy belated Earth Day.
In middle school, I spent earth day running through a community garden, stringing streamers around a tree. But I’ve grown, and it seems as if the fun is over. I spent this one in the metropolis of New York. It was like any other day, full of subway congestion and floating plastic bags.
I figured that I must have been sad this past earth day because I felt guilty about something. Was it because I forgot to bring my cloth bag to the deli and opted for plastic instead? Trying to balance a cosmopolitan lifestyle with a growing eco-awareness isn’t easy.
Six or seven years ago, I sat in a Dean of Students’ office for a college interview. The dean asked me the prosaic questions about my classes and activities, and the interview was going well. Until he asked me something that I could not answer.
“What’s the point?” He said
“Excuse me?” I asked, suddenly nervous.
“What’s the point of education? Why do we bother learning?”
I sat in silence and mentally unchecked this college from the list of schools I would get into. How could an educator ask me a question like that?
I guess I still believed in streamers and symbolic trees.
Since then I’ve come to realize why it’s essential to learn. Without knowledge, we perpetuate a culture of detachment and self-absorption. How can we to evolve as a species if we don’t engage our minds?
We’re all consumers here. But there’s a difference between an educated consumer and an uninformed one. The boundary between the two is defined on one hand by knowledge, and on the other hand, ignorance; on one hand by mindfulness and on the other by thoughtlessness.
Michael Pollen wrote a brilliant article in a recent Sunday New York Times Magazine about the disengaged state of this country of ours. When it comes to our eco-education, ignorance may be blissful to some, but it will ultimately be ruinous for everyone. Even if we think that one more plastic bag could not possibly make a difference in the grand scheme of things, what could be more horrific than knowing we could have done something, anything, to help the planet, but chose not to?
I’ll work on being a conscious consumer every day, and when Earth day comes around next year I’ll try to celebrate it like I used to as a kid— free of judgment, and finally free of ignorance.