Monday, April 12, 2010

Sometimes I think back on my past and wonder if I would change anything about it if I could go back and do it over again. For the most part, I am content with my life, but there are some little things that I wish I could change. One of those things was my involvement with the Environmental Institute at my alma mater. While I agree with the fact that the environment should be protected, I do not agree with a lot of other things groups such as this stand for. And I certainly do not agree with the methodology groups like this use to see their agenda through.

My stay in the group was brief – only a year of my college life. I had fun interacting with other members on various trips around the US, going to lectures on endangered species, and collectively reading books by acclaimed environmental authors on subjects like acid rain and the dumping of sewage into rivers and lakes. I had fun, and I guess that was the hook to get me involved. It wasn’t until near the end of the year that the more serious environmentalists began picking out members whose personalities tended to be more fanatical that I became disillusioned. They began having meetings about global warming, and how it was all the fault of greedy humans. When I mentioned that global warming was a natural process that had happened many times before humans ever made an appearance on the planet, I was shunned. My peers who had welcomed me with open arms suddenly wouldn’t talk to me, as if my ability to reason and read unbiased papers were somehow distasteful to them. It hurt then, but I’m over it now.

It saddens me to see so many youth attracted to movements that operate on fear-mongering and pushing blame. The environmentalists were just one such group. There was also PETA supporters, crusaders for Christ, fructarians, and others on campus. When I look back, I joined to make friends, to be a part of something bigger than me, and to feel good about myself. I thought it would be a group where we learned how to live more harmoniously with the planet, which I was all for. I thought we would learn how to recycle and reuse common household items, grow our own food, depend on alternative energy, and explore natural wonders like parks and trails through wilderness areas. We did some of that, but only a token amount. Most of the time was spent focusing on how humans have “ruined” the earth. We read about oil spills, toxic fumes, landfills, and the evils of consumerism. I’m not saying that I regret learning about all of those negatives, but I think it should have been tempered with more positive. I think instead of focusing on how nuclear waste was stored and its halflife, maybe we should have learned more about how to compost our own waste. Maybe instead of just reading about some company polluting a river so badly that everything in it died, we should have spent some time organizing a clean-up of a local water source. Instead of spending three meetings in a row discussing the evil of Monsanto, we should have learned more about open-pollinated and heirloom seeds.

When a group focuses only on the negative aspects of something, it can be very difficult for individual members to think straight enough to seek positive aspects. For example, on one of our camping trips we went to a national park where campers were supposed to have zero impact on the forest. We decided to set up camp in a large clearing where it looked like many people stopped. The people before us had not done a good job of leaving the place as they found it, as there were broken bottles, burst balloons, crushed beer cans, and tons of trash stuck in the bracken and grass all around. While the rest of my group set up camp cheerfully discussing the horrid effects of some environmental disaster we had seen earlier that day, I left my tent and duffel sitting by a tree, found a garbage bag, and started clearing the campsite of rubbish. My peers looked at me like I was out of my mind as I dirtied my hands picking up candy bar wrappers and bits of string. Even my professor pulled me aside and told me that I was “holding up” the evening, telling me that I should finish setting up my tent and pick up after the night’s discussions were over. I just scowled at him, turned, and continued picking up all of the trash. I guess that was the turning point in my stint of being an environmentalist. I was more concerned about the environment than any of the others gathered around the campfire talking about doing good but doing nothing at all.

Do I consider myself an environmentalist today? No. That word has been dragged through the mud by people who are all bluster about everyone else but themselves. That word means someone who is extremely biased. That word means someone who is bent on the destruction of companies, organizations, and individuals who don’t agree with the environmentalist agenda. It’s a movement of people who, instead of doing their own research and coming up with their own conclusions, have taken the word of one supposed authority or another. It’s followers, lemmings. It’s people who probably want to belong, to be a part of something bigger than themselves, to be swept up in a good movement. But the good is lost when it’s only negativity that is examined. The good is lost when followers turn militant against non-followers, and when blindness to reason is a preferable trait.

I think I would consider myself a responsible citizen. I am taking my future, and the future of our family, into my own hands. I am making my own decisions as to what I think is right, instead of blindly following some charismatic fool in the media. I am trying to be a good person in everything that I do, whether it is for the environment, for my family, for the human race, or for my own personal well-being. I don’t care to put myself into one category or another anymore. I don’t mind not “fitting in” to any specific social grouping. I don’t regret all of the lessons I learned by being sucked into the environmentalist movement, but I do regret that I didn’t stand up against all of the hatred they brewed against outsiders. I do regret that I didn’t voice my opinions against all of the hypocritical nonsense spewed by the in-crowd. I regret the scowl I gave to my professor – I should have grabbed him by the face and dragged him around the campground to see the filth he so willingly ignored.

It’s funny to look back on things like this, because if I could go back as I am today I would have behaved in a totally different manner. I was more of a suffer in silence personality, a shy loner, back then. Nowadays, I am anything but silent. If I see something that doesn’t make sense, or something that is just outright stupid, then I will let it be known. It’s not a bad thing to have regrets about the past, however. Regrets just motivate me to do better in the present, and to look forward to the choices I will make in the future. I think I would like to help youngsters who are so impressionable and so easily sucked into popular movements. I would like to try to show them another viewpoint, teach them how to use reason and to make up their own minds instead of always bowing to some supposed authority. I think that when my boys are a little older I wouldn’t mind having local children of all ages visit the farm to see how we as people can live more responsibly, more independently. There’s so much to learn on a small farm: composting, planting and harvesting, how to build up healthy soil, how to reuse and recycle, alternate disposal methods, animal husbandry, caring for the natural wildlife, water conservation, alternative energy, fixing what is there instead of buying new stuff all the time, organic methods for just about any task one can think of, and so much more.

So, yeah, I have regrets, but I can do something about them. This blog is just an example of how I can make up for my mistakes in the past, by sharing what I have learned with the two or three people who read my words. I like that whatever I write on here can be criticized by others who share some of the same beliefs as I do. I don’t mind other viewpoints. To ignore an opposing view is, in my opinion, incredibly silly, and possibly dangerous. Even though some of my beliefs are nearly cemented into my being, I still have the sense to listen when I hear something new. You never know when or from where good advice will come.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I believe that everyone should strive to learn something new every day. Yesterday I learned how to make homemade hummus. Yum! Even though I had never made it before, I still had to tweak the recipe a little, just to give it some kick. Here’s what I came up with:

15 oz Garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ cup cold water
¼ cup Tahini (aka Sesame Paste, can be found in the international foods aisle)
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
¼ tsp cayenne (more or less, to taste)
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice (toss in a little zest if you like, too)

Mix everything up together in a blender or a food processor. Chill for a half hour to two days. Serve cold with baked pita chips. To make the baked pita chips, use a pair of kitchen shears to cut along the edge of several pita loaves, separating the two sides completely. Brush the crumbly side of each half with EVOO, sprinkle with garlic powder, and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 6 minutes with seasoned side up. While still hot, cut into 8 chip-shaped slices. Spread with hummus, and LOVE it!

Today, I learned how to build the floor of a trailer. I’m very glad that my husband knows so much, because I would never have known how to go about it on my own. I went out and bought wood and wood screws. Turns out the wood I got was just fine, but you can’t expect to screw wood to metal brackets with plain old wood screws. My husband picked up self tapping screws on his way home from work, and boy did those do the trick! It only took about a half hour to get the plywood cut, in place, and screwed down. He still has to do a bit of work on the axle before we can use it, but I’m excited to finally have something to haul compost, manure, and other heavy loads with.

Ok, now I have to end this because Glee is on and I am totally hooked on this show like a fat kid is to a cupcake. Toodles!

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