Thursday, April 2, 2009

Why not?

Henry David Thoreau was, among other things, one of America’s very first naturalists. He was also somewhat of an activist; he introduced the world to the concept of “Civil Disobedience” through his essay of the same title.

Thoreau once spent a night in jail for failing to pay a poll tax. It wasn’t that he forgot to pay the sum; he was making a statement against government policy that he saw as “looking the other way” on matters related to slavery, among other things. (History suspects his aunt paid the tax, leading to his release.)

Having stopped to visit him at the jail, his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson was said to have jokingly asked, “What are you doing in there?”

Thinking principle and justice were on his side of the jailhouse bars, Thoreau responded by saying, “Perhaps the better question is, “What are you doing out there?”

On more than one occasion, people have asked why we would spend our precious leisure time picking trash from rivers, streams or shorelines.

Perhaps the better question is, “Why isn't everyone?”

Navigable rivers are public property. That means, "All citizens share ownership." I enjoy thinking about that as paddle down a particularly beautiful stretch of waterway: I own a piece of this. And the same goes for a publicly supported park, preserve or sanctuary.

When we engage in a clean-up, we're not just doing Mother Nature a favor. We're tidying-up our own back yard. I think the magic of Earth Day is that, even if only for the week or two around that event, folks from all walks of life realize they're cleaning up their own back yard. That day, the question isn't, "Why." It is, "Why not?"

(As always, click on any image to enlarge.)

© Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN. All rights reserved.

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