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.
Dear readers, with new creative endeavors calling, this is my final “In Our Hands” column. I have been continually gratified by your words of support over the years and by your engaging conversations about topics I’ve covered in this space. Your feedback has both challenged and inspired me.
I look forward to hearing the new voice that will fill this space.
Editor’s note: Our greatest thanks to Marcia for sharing her personal stories and insights on her journey of writing “In Our Hands” for the past several years. We will miss her way with words and her passion for her subject matter, and we wish her well on her new adventures.