“Making Amends to the Planet Earth”


The adults know what they’re doing. They have a plan, and the plan is progressive. Surely, they wouldn’t do anything to endanger their own children. They’ve taught us that it’s safety first. If you get cut on a rusty tin can, make sure to get a tetanus shot so you don’t get lock jaw . Clean up the kitchen counter before the bacteria has a chance to spread. Personal hygiene is very important. Clean behind your ears. Brush your teeth. Oh yeah, by the way, don’t play tag around the chemical dump or you’ll end up with cancer.

Growing up in the mill town of Hope, Rhode Island, I witnessed the effects of corporate environmental irresponsibility on a daily basis. During the summer, when school was out, I would set forth each morning with an adventurous spirit and a curious mind. I could hardly wait to see what color the river would be that day! Will it be powder blue? As a seven year old boy, I think powder blue was my favorite, because it made the river look “happy”, more like the River of Oz. It was happy powder blue on special days, but more often than not it was an “unhappy” color, like burnt orange, navy blue/bordering on black, or dark green with masses of snot-like cloud formations in the yellowish-green shades of pea soup. Yes, unfortunately, this is a true story. During my childhood, the Hope Mill was still a functioning lace factory. Sadly enough, the river wasn’t magical; its water didn’t change color each day, based on the wishes of a little boy and his hopes to see powder blue; no, the color was in fact, directly related to the order of lace being manufactured that day. When the mill workers would finish dipping each lot of lace in the dye vat, someone was apparently charged with the directive to open the valve and discharge the contents of said vat into the “first river”. The first river was the canal that cut through the mill and came out the back, the second river was the Pawtuxet River, where the first river would bleed off its dying colors. As a child, it all made sense. In hindsight, I can perceive it only as madness. Eventually the Environmental Protection Agency must have stepped in, because sometime during my early teens, the mill owners dug massive pits between the first and second rivers and proceeded to pump their waste dye into these holding ponds. No more colorful river, just nasty colored poison lakes. Then, one fine day, the bulldozers came and filled in the dye pits with the soil they had previously bulldozed out. So, the problem was solved, because we could no longer see the bold colors of criminal environmental destruction.

I realize that today’s journal post is focused on an extremely negative subject. No one wants to face up to, and take responsibility for, our forefather’s indiscriminate selfishness and greed. However, I am convinced that we must start the healing of our planet and ourselves, by first owning the mistakes of the past and working toward a better future by learning from those mistakes. Our physical health is dependent on environmental health. If the Earth is sick, so are we. 

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