By Maurice Carter, Sustainable Newton President
It's taken longer than I hoped -- weeks in fact -- to get to where I could organize my thoughts to share a few words about how we persevere with sustainability efforts in these troubling times. But, I suspect you all understand.
It's a striking reminder how much life changed so quickly to reread my last post about Arbor Day written 43 days ago, on February 20. It was easy then to imagine young seedlings and saplings growing into mighty shade trees to shelter generations to come. But, thinking about that future is a more difficult task today.
I find myself spending spare moments on days not occupied by the present to reflect on my past. Or, more accurately, the past of those who gifted life to me long ago.
One vivid memory is of my grandfather -- my father's father -- at mealtime with our family. Done eating, I was scraping leftover food from my plate into the trash, along with the aluminum foil wrapper from a baked potato. When my grandfather told me to save the foil and rinse it to use again, I thought he was crazy. No doubt I laughed. I also know I had many variations of this with him and my other grandparents over the years of my childhood.
Who knows yet what conditions we'll face in the days, week, months, and years ahead? It does little good to fret. But, I do find myself searching memories for hints and tips my grandparents shared about lessons they learned growing up in the hardest economic times our nation has ever known.
I wish I'd paid a more attention then. And, I wonder if they told me all they could have at the time. But, the memories that shaped their lives were probably not something they particularly wanted to dwell on either.
I find myself as old now as my grandparents were when I went out on my own. And, I am living in a time when food waste is one of our most pressing factors contributing to global warming -- an age when roughly a third of the world's food production goes uneaten.
If my grandfather were transported to my time, or I back to his, I wonder how the conversation might go as I try to explain sustainability and why it's something I'm passionate about. The world my grandparents and their contemporaries lived in was not a place where excess was an option. It was a world that could barely yield enough.
I know they were glad to see my parents, my brother, sister, and I enjoy a better life than they had known. But, the pendulum inevitably swung too far, as it always does.
The cornavirus pandemic and associated economic uncertainty will try us all. It's not a moment any of us would willingly choose to endure. But, this is also a time to recognize and embrace opportunities to move forward on a more solid, sustainable foundation. I feel those changes in my own life already:
As we commit collectively to the task of rebuilding what's been damaged and restoring what we value most, let us also pledge to each other to learn the lessons right before us and harvest fully the wisdom of those who lived before us. Let us strive for more than just a "return to normal," for normal wasn't always truly our best.
As you hopefully join us in resuming our focus on building that better world for our children, here are some resources to help: