Apr 16, 2010

Earth Day & Electronic Device Day?!

Next Thursday, April 22nd, will mark the 40-year anniversary of the first Earth Day! In the 1970’s, that generation, (the “hippies” if you will) created the radical “go green” movement. They hugged a tree and with that started a legacy and a holiday that carries into 2010. “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle,” that’s their slogan and their mission: to keep the planet clean for the next generation (that would be us).

I think we have done a good job of carrying out this legacy.
Today, you’re an oddity if you don’t recycle. We encourage eco-friendly habits; Electric cars like the Prius or Hybrids; reusable containers and Tupperware; trendy reusable bags from our favorite retail and fair trade grocery stores like Trader Joe’s.

We read news headlines online and have paperless paychecks and bills. We are environmentally friendly and we’ve made our parents generation proud. They were wise enough to see the potential danger that a wasteful life could have, so, they opened their mouths, made some noise, got some attention and started a movement.

They thought out side-of-the-box, they used foresight to see the potential harm of a wasteful lifestyle and the significant benefits that change could bring. I say, who cares if those hippies went to Woodstock, smoked grass and burned their bras…. they were still bright, progressive, creative and innovative.

So what about us? Our generation has proven to be a conscious, conscientious part of this world today. We recognize that the abundant life on this planet provides for all our physical needs. Our “Hippie-Baby- Boomer” parents made sure of that with the inception of Earth Day and we carry that on with each passing year.

But, what about our 20something generation? What will we leave behind? What much needed, meaningful movement will we start?

Some argue that we are the “techy” generation. We are computer savvy and technologically advanced. We’ve lived through:
  • VHS, DVD’s, and now Blue Ray
  • Atari, Nintendo, Sega, Gameboy, Xbox, Rockband and DSi
  • Headset radios, boom boxes, Discmans and now the iPod
  • Color TV, Digital TV and High-Def
  • Computer monitors with green screens, laptops, Macs and iPads
We are on the cutting edge… but with technology comes immense amounts of waste that we accumulate. Every time something new is developed, within a month’s time, it is out of date. We are updating our gadgets faster than we can purchase them.

So is that our legacy? … A pile of old cell phones, VHS tapes, CD’s DVD’s, computer games, video games, empty ink cartridges and old monitors? As we condense our lives into one compact gadget (iPhone, blackberry, laptop or iPad) will we also have condensed our legacy? Will our kids celebrate Electronic Device Day?

How will we mark our generation? How can we make sure that our technological advancements are not all that we leave behind? How can we ensure that we make a personal impact? Yes, I know, we’re not hippies … but our influence should move beyond just gadgets. So, I thought about people and how they manage to leave a piece of themselves behind.

My mom’s mom, my grandmother, passed away when I was five. My grandmother was on dialysis and went to the hospital three times a week. Her kidneys were failing and she was growing weak… but don’t start to feel sad and somber, because my tenacious Grandmom wouldn’t want that.

You see, she was a tough Irish woman, not much taller than me (about 5’2 as well) and although her body was giving up on her, she wasn’t going without a fight. Each and every time we would wait for the ambulance to come and carry her off to dialysis; my job would be to retrieve her lipstick from her bag. I remember thinking how beautiful she looked as she applied shiny pink lipstick to her lips. My mother, however, would ask her what she was doing…

“Mom, you’re going to the hospital, what are doing?”

She would answer in her thick Brooklyn accent, “Karen…A lady, is a lady, is a lady—no matter what the situation, don’t you forget that! I just want to look nice… besides those boys who escort me to the hospital are cute and I’m not dead yet!”

This always left my mom laughing. My grandmother would wink at me and I would smile. On one of my many trips to fetch her lipstick, I sat on the couch; legs swinging off the edge, watching her artfully trace the pink tube over her lips. I asked her, as only a 5 year old can do…

“Why do you say you’re not dead yet Grandma? Is something bad going to happen?”

She twisted her silver Clinique lipstick down, replaced the cap and gave me her full attention. This is when she told me about the ladybug. She explained that she was very sick and wouldn’t be able to live at our house too much longer, but not for me to worry, because she was going to come back and watch over me.

She told me that in awhile, whenever she missed me, she would fly down from heaven and come back as a ladybug to sneak-a- peak. I remember being so sad and tears rolled down my face with the realization that I couldn’t keep her forever; but I also remember a sense of calm that came with that moment and that is what I continue to hold onto.

My little, tenacious, Irish, grandmother explained that she chose a ladybug because they are good luck and she would forever be a “lady.” My family is Roman Catholic. Catholic’s do not traditionally believe in reincarnation, yet, this does not stop me from thinking of my Grandmother any time I see a ladybug. I do not believe that she is actually a bug, but when I see them, I think of her. Over the years, my family has bought one another countless ladybug trinkets, cards, stickers; I even have a ladybug tattoo (don’t ask where it is and NO you can’t see it)!

The ladybug has become a symbol that represents my Grandmother and the belief that she is watching over us. It is something small that allows her legacy to live on, immortalizing her every time we see a little polka dot red bug.

So, isn’t it interesting the things that live on? What will take shape and take on a life of it’s own?

What I fear is that our generation is so consumed with being the consumer; that we will be distracted by all the gadgets and things… the stuff. We work hard to acquire it and keep up with the changes. However, what will we leave behind?

What will live on long after us is not our “toys” or our gadgets. Sure the. jpegs, emails, texts, documents will be saved to some memory board, flash drive or internet file. But our memory must surpass the gigabyte or megabyte. It has to be a memory that remains’ in the forefront of people’s brains. A smiling Earth, or a ladybug — they are small symbols, but they represent something so much more; something too large and too moving to trivialize and fit nicely in a zip file on one of our gadgets.

So as Earth Day approaches, we need to remember that everything we need comes directly or indirectly from the bounty of the earth. I am thankful that we, the “ techy” 20somethings, realize that we need to continue to consciously do our part. To protect and restore this beautiful planet and live harmoniously with nature.

We also need to stay aware, just like our parents did, that our actions will affect the next generation. By recognizing the impact and change that our parents were a catalyst for, maybe we too can make a change. We need to look ahead for our children and maybe we can tweak our “techy-ness” into a gift or a legacy, left behind by us.

"Going Green”, as we say today, is so much more than just a color… it’s a state of mind. We should try and keep just a little bit of “Hippie” alive in all of us. (Bell Bottom pants excluded!) But keep in mind that we want to leave something of our own behind as well.

Whether it’s a smiling earth that represents Earth Day or a tiny Ladybug that can remind people of our presence—Nothing is too small to make a great impact. So get thinking, these are our “formative years” as people and as an entire generation!


“The only thing you take with you when you're gone is what you leave behind.” -John Allston

“The Earth is our Mother, we are all her children.” -Hindu proverb