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Valedictory


February 13, 2013

When I was asked to write this column in the summer of 2007, my first reaction was, “Why me?” I felt woefully unqualified. On the other hand, I saw writing as a way to do something, however modest, to influence change that might help preserve the natural world which was increasingly at risk.

In the process of writing approximately 65 columns, I have learned much, and gradually have incorporated simple changes into my life. I have become an avid recycler, make most of my purchases locally and buy organic products whenever possible. I have been a vegetarian for over a year. I never drink bottled water. I reject disposable products of all kinds, toting my reusable bags to the supermarket, using cloth napkins and cleaning with rags. I make my own laundry detergent and use the clothesline instead of the dryer most of the year.

I’ve written about gas drilling, the tragedy of the commons, life-cycle assessment, the precautionary principle and peak oil. One of the most important lessons I learned during my research is that it is nearly impossible to glean the truth about what is good for us and for the environment because everyone seems to have a PR agent, because green-washing benefits business and because supposedly independent studies are funded by the very industries they are studying.

Unfortunately, since I began writing this column, not much has changed or improved, on the national or on the global level. In November 2008, President-elect Obama said about the pressing issue of climate change, “Delay is no longer an option, denial is no longer an acceptable response.” After quoting his encouraging words, I wrote, “Surely now we have an unprecedented opportunity to create a new and thriving economy… [by creating] millions of green-collar jobs and catalyzing private efforts to build a clean energy future.” Four years of inaction have passed since I wrote those words. The press made big news of the fact that the president devoted eight sentences (a whole eight!) to climate change in his January inaugural address. I hope my cynicism is unfounded, but there is no indication from past history that significant (or even insignificant) programs will be initiated. World powers have failed to institute large-scale change even though pollution, deforestation, depletion of resources, extreme weather and loss of biodiversity continue to devastate our interconnected natural systems.

I find it difficult to hold much hope for the future. I fear tough times ahead. Still, I try my best to do what I hope is right for the planet and its creatures. No action is insignificant, especially in our precarious situation.