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Monday, April 23, 2007

Earth Day

In the car on the way to school this morning, ten-year-old Megan mentioned that yesterday her father said, “The best things in life are free.” A little bit grudgingly, Megan said, “I have to agree with that. The earth, life, love, family, friendship… but there are some pretty cool things that aren’t free.”

Eight-year-old Luke chimed in, “Limited Too is not one of the best things in life,” knowing that his sister is newly infatuated with the preteen clothing store. “Pokemon cards are not the best things in life either,” he said, since he is newly infatuated with Pokemon cards. “The best things in life are from the earth. We don’t have to pay money for the trees that give us oxygen. We don’t have to pay money for the sun. If we had to pay for the sun, it would be like $80 a day.”

Sometimes I think these kids are turning out OK.

Later we turned on Radio Disney, a station they love but I hate because it is just one insidious commercial for Disney products. They play songs from Disney movies and hype stars from, you guessed it, Disney movies. (By the way, Limited Too also hypes Disney stars, sparking wild speculation on my part about the marketing deal this must involve.) But today Radio Disney had a commercial that was about saving the earth, and it struck me as a positive sign of the times. Environmentalism has turned a cultural corner. It’s now being espoused, not just by a few Quakers and other nonconformists, but by Thomas Friedman, Yale University, and Radio Disney, a cultural trifecta. Friedman’s cover story in the New York Times Magazine and the Yale Alumni newsletter all about the environment seemed like just the latest signs that we’re moving past the once a year Earth Day conversation to a more sober recognition of the impact we’re having on the earth. Yesterday on a train to New York I sat with a train engineer and a wealthy retiree, and we talked about how we could reduce our energy use. I don’t think I even started the conversation.

At dinner tonight Luke refused to eat the meatballs because he said he was helping the earth for Earth Day. Then he asked if you could sue your parents. Tom asked what made him think of that. “Well, today is Earth Day,” Luke responded, “which made me think of the water cycle, which made me think of sewers, which made me think of suing.”

I don’t always understand how the boy’s mind works, but I’m glad that an awareness of the water cycle is part of his consciousness. With Radio Disney joining the environmental chorus, I’m confident that Megan and Luke’s generation will grow up with at least some lip service to environmentalism. The bigger question is whether any of us will really change our ways. Radio Disney is never going to explain to people that vacationing near home, rather than flying to Disney World, is one way to slow global warming. Kids are going to have to learn some other way that the best things in life are free.


Blogger Philip Jones said...

How do you keep a straight face at meals?

Phil J.

9:24 PM  

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