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Earth Day in Portland: an urbanMamas green thing

On one hand, I love the idea of Earth Day, because it gets people talking about how to reduce consumption, and cut down on waste, and it was lovely to see so many parents biking their kids to school/day care today. (I was unapologetic when I biked down Division with Monroe and Everett today: usually I feel bad getting in the way of traffic that wants to be moving faster than 15 miles an hour, but hey! It's Earth Day!) On the other hand, really? Just one day? And I worry that many with less of a feeling of weighty culpability than me (I'm not sure if guilt & fear is the answer, but I've surely got a lot of it) will bring their own cups to Starbucks for a free coffee, and plant a couple of lettuce seeds, and recycle something, and then forget about it until next spring.

I'm conflicted; I like the talk but but worry that's most of it. A scientist has written a book about alternatives to cutting carbon emissions -- because, he says, although everyone seems to agree cutting emissions is the only sensible solution, we all just keep driving cars and using, and mining, coal. The fact that few governmental officials made even the smallest commitment to reducing the number of coal plants in their countries and municipalities after the latest terrible mining accident says that nothing -- not the loss of human life, not the obvious destructive effects of carbon mining on the environment during and after the coal mines come in (really? mountain top removal??? how did that ever make sense in the first place?), not the clear connection between coal-burning and climate change -- will get us off this train, the end of which seems to be dead oceans, big swaths of the world becoming uninhabitable due to high temperatures and drained aquifers, drought, starvation, and the rise of Canada's watermelon-growing industry. More of us need to stop driving; we all need to stop burning fossil fuels to turn on our lights and pouring petroleum-based chemicals into our soil, our rivers, our bodies.

So, today is an everyday for me, and I know especially in Portland, many of us feel the same. (Sharon Astyk, a writer about sustainable living and environmentalism, wrote this about the topic, focused on the "greenwashing" of corporations in the celebration.) Many of you, like those who have joined the new Portland Radical Homemaking group on Facebook, are part of the choir, right? I will do this: plant a blueberry bush, eat my leftovers, take out the compost bucket, feed my chickens something yummy, buy organic food, in bulk, with my own containers, ride my bike, start another loaf of bread, keep the TV off, make instead of buy, write about what I believe in. I will do this, too: try to relax, not worry; it's kind of crushing.

How are you celebrating Earth Day: and how do you feel about the holiday? My neighbor sent me a link to this piece on Green My Parents, an advocacy group started by a 12-year-old that encourages children to use savvy marketing tactics (those that advertise on cartoons call it "the nag factor") to get their parents to wash in cold water, ride their bikes, and stop drinking bottled water. Writes Allison Arieff, "they've designed a program that makes behavior change easy and economically rewarding for participants." Is this the answer? Would you change your behavior if your children were advocating it? Or do you feel you already do all you can?


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there is so much to tackle and sometimes it is overwhelming. But, one small step at a time. yesterday, in the name of the whole TURNOFF Week = my week to slow down, one of my girls, the baby, and I pedaled around town after dinner. We ended up at the park. we enjoyed our earth, the outside, the air.

Ongoing, I really want to be more involved in programs like "understanding barriers to cycling" at the Community Cycling Center. http://www.communitycyclingcenter.org/index.php/understanding-barriers-to-bicycling/ For we cannot all just say, "I would like to bike more" and then go on to do so. So, so, many issues prevent us from doing that.

In the same way, there are many reasons why many of us can't just say, "I will eat better fresher food", if our closest supermarket doesn't carry the fresh food and mostly carried stuff in plastic wrap with high fructose corn syrup.

If I were in a different field of work, I just may have dedicated my professional time to seeing how less served communities can get access. The limited access is saddening sometimes.

I want to lead by example, biking hella miles in every days, even if I'm frikkin' slow as heck hauling kids, my portable office, groceries, and more. I want to lead by example, creating teesy bits of waste, and really aiming for almost-no waste at all. At the same time, I want to see what limits others from doing the same, and how can I ease/address/remove those barriers?

We celebrated Earth Day pretty much the way we do everyday - washing out the recycling, making meals from scratch, trying to keep the TV and the computer off as much as we can.

I did take my daughter to Tyron Creek for a hike. Getting outside in the trees is a nice reminder of why it's important to be gentle with the Earth. As a family, we are far from perfect -- we drive too much, throw away too much, buy too much -- but a walk in the woods always motivates me to do better.

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