When my legs were too short for long hikes, I was carried on the backs
of parents and grandparents to experience the earth’s wild places.
Outdoor wonders were handed down in the sparkle of morning dew,
the colors of sky and stone, the nests of birds, and the vibrant issue
of new life thriving underneath the fallen trunks of a previous
generation of trees.
“Every Litter-bit Hurts” and “Only You Can Prevent Forest
Fires” were the first road signs I could read, and they branded my
soul with the consciousness of environmental stewardship.
I was taught it sacrilege to leave trash anywhere, and
unthinkable to act without respect for living things.
I thought everyone was raised this way.
Working frequently to improve wildlife habitat, I know the best restoration is to do no
harm in the first place.
When destructive elements act on an ecosystem, they effect an entire web of
interdependent living things, including human beings, and we also become
And there are things once taken, that cannot be put back.
Not long ago, the Los Angeles City Council approved the downing
of 940 mature oaks and the destruction of a 500-acre oak woodland
ecosystem to expand Sunshine Canyon Landfill, making room for more
The taking of these trees seemed unspeakable and left me
pondering the need for more landfill space.
Why is there so much trash?
The answer is, my trash, and the trash of thousands of others
My black trash can empties into that dump.
I am ‘littering’ there, in that beautiful oak woodland that
is no more.
on me. With
a heavy heart I open the lid of my black trash can to
What is so important to throw away that I must spoil sacred
What is so worth having that its packaging or spent remains
destroys what I love and value most?
Herein I find my need to change.
I need to compost.
I need to know where to take worn out clothing for fiber
recycling, what to do with plastic that is not marked with a 1 or 2,
or at all, and what to do with styrofoam.
If I can’t buy yogurt without the un-recyclable tub, then
maybe I should go without.
I need cloth napkins.
And further, I need a clothesline, a bicycle, a garden, and a
thought to how may people this world can support.
I need to hand down a respect for the earth’s precious
resources and wild places, even in my urban neighborhood.
I need to sober to the ultimate consequences of putting anything
in the black trash can.
I need not send to know for whom the bell tolls.
It tolls for me.