Since then, Maine has passed both a returnable bottle bill and one of the stiffest drunk driving laws in the nation, pretty much taking care of the Miller can problem, and our village was one of the first in Maine to have re-cycling at the local dump, now known as the Solid Waste Disposal Center (I still call it the Dump), but the things one sees tossed away, waiting to fill up the landfill is shocking. The town has a sewage treatment system, and no longer does the estate of a major department store heiress discharge the waste of its 10 bathrooms directly into the bay, as we discovered on another class outing. Progress is being made. Yet, despite all we know, there are still an alarming number of public building sized SUV’s and gigantic Pickups trolling local streets, totally unnecessary for daily life, making that giant Buick Wagon of my youth look like a pedal car,(when did the humble pickup trucks of my childhood become the size of a semi, and why?), and in the summer, big box stores are artificially cooled to the temperature of a refrigerator. The local food movement has some traction, but is expensive, and the food mostly gets transported home in one of those Ozone burning SUV’s (wtf is wrong with people?). People drive insanely fast, making a joke of fuel economy, but lawns are mostly organically fertilized now—rare is the sight of one of those unnaturally green weedless chemical lawns. We mean well, but there’s a long way to go before we get there.
Can it be that earth day is 40 years old,? Or on a more personal note, that I was 16, nearing 17, that first year?
I remember it well. The environmental movement was very new, and a young group of us at school were taking a class called ‘Human Ecology’, whose instructor, no kidding, was named Green. When it was suggested that we take an afternoon off from school to go out and clean up the roadsides, none of us had to be asked twice (“oh no, Mr. Green, I couldn’t possibly miss Algebra just to spend a school afternoon outside”).
The principles of green, then as now, were imperfectly understood. We set forth on our clean-up mission armed with a box of 100 plastic garbage bags, in my mother’s Buick station wagon, longer than a city block, with a 455 cube 4-barrel with overdrive, the largest of the many large engines that GM produced in those days, burning up the ozone at 14 mpg (pretty houses aren’t the only thing I know about).
Nevertheless, what we cleaned up from the roadsides that day was shocking—literally thousands of beer cans (Miller being the hands down rural Maine favorite in those pre-Heineken days), old newspapers and magazines, household refuse.
And then there’s the matter of all those plastic shutters which will have to be thrown away some day.