My Earth Day Pledge
I was there at the beginning, you know.
April 22, 1970.
I was a sophomore at Flint Central High School, and I had just completed an ecology report for my biology teacher, Mr. Sharp. Yes, ecology in the 1970s was considered a part of science, not a political stance. And our lesson was to do some research for the first Earth Day.
I wrote a report about the population explosion, dwindling resources and, although gasoline was selling at 36 cents a gallon, I wrote how gas prices could quadruple in our lifetime unless we did something to regulate oil consumption. I copied a pledge from the back of a pamphlet I used as a resource that said I would try to limit my consumption of fossil fuels as best I could to save the planet. I urged Mr. Sharp to do the same and left him with a blank pledge sheet stapled to the back of my report. I got a B+ on the report and probably would have gotten an A had I not put him on the spot. He left his pledge unsigned.
My pledge lasted all of two days, ending when I decided to walk to Dunkin’ Donuts six blocks away in the rain instead of having Mom sit in the car while I drove there on my learner’s permit.
With soggy donuts that afternoon and a head cold later that week, I bailed on my pledge and reintroduced myself to conspicuous consumption.
It’s been more than four decades, and I’m not as ecological as I could be, but I’m not like Tony Soprano, who in season one bribed someone at his garden center to get DDT for his landscapers.
I’m using the recycling bin, eating some organic fruits and vegetables and wishing that oil prices would still be on their way to only quadrupling in our lifetime. Imagine paying $1.44 for a gallon of gas. And now that ecology and living organically is part of corporate America — Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM); United Natural Foods (NASDAQ:UNFI) — it’s become easier to purchase organic, locally grown apples for $4 each that are free from preservatives and rot as you eat them. Numerous local markets around town compete against Whole Foods and other chain stores to sell food of varying quality and price.
Clothing is also being manufactured to those who want to save the planet. Hemp. Now there’s an odd choice for clothing — it’s a substance that many of us chose as our major when we were college sophomores. Back in the day, it was easy to spot the vegetarians and seed eaters. They were the ones who ate healthy but looked sickly and drawn.
Now they wear yoga pants, drive hybrid cars and look as sickly and drawn as the rest of us meat-eaters who own underwater mortgages.
Several years ago, Whole Foods opened a 40,000-square-foot store in Washington, D.C., in the middle of a crack neighborhood near Logan Square and turned it into a thriving hip neighborhood within two years.
Now the company is planning to build a store in Detroit’s Midtown that is slated to open in spring 2013. Some residents of the neighborhood surrounding the Mack Avenue and John R store location are familiar with recycling, as the lack of copper wiring in the streetlights will attest, but I wish Whole Foods luck selling organic fruits and vegetables, homeopathic remedies and hemp clothing.
I will reconsider my decades-old pledge when the weather becomes nicer. I will eat healthier, be nicer and make the world a better place. Starting next month.
But when April 22 rolls around, I won’t expect coverage of the 42nd Annual Earth Day in the news if there’s still an upcoming Republican primary — or Kim Kardashian is getting married, engaged or is just awake and talking to the press about her dinner plans.