It was a weird habit, but as a child it seemed like the right thing to do. Anytime I got a piece of candy or gum, I always made it a point to wad up the wrapper and stuff it in my pocket and keep it there before I found a garbage can to toss the litter away.
About the only one that didn't appreciate that habit was my mother, who would always find the wrappers after she washed my clothes and the plastic and paper wrappers ended up getting stuck to the rest of the laundry. But to this day, I still avoid dropping these wrappers on the ground because I feel a bit guilty if I litter, even if it's just one small piece of paper.
In addition to feeling a bit guilty, I suppose it's my own way of keeping our streets clean -- my small contribution to preserving our environment. To this day, it annoys me when I catch people tossing garbage on the ground without giving it an afterthought.
But I really don't consider myself a huge environmentalist or someone standing on a street corner wanting to preach the need to protect our air, water and earth. I suppose I'm more of a cynic than a skeptic when it comes to the issue of global warming, global cooling, climate change or whatever the national news is using as its new "catch phase" for this phenomena.
I guess I get tired of the hypocrisy and double standard being set by those in positions of authority who preach these messages. For example, every time I hear our elected leaders shout the "climate change mantra," it seems they always make these speeches after they've traveled halfway around the world in their own personal aircraft before they were chauffeured to and from these meetings in a fleet of limousines with their entourage of followers.
I think it's bitterly ironic when they say that people need to cut back on their "carbon footprint" after they left a pretty significant one all by themselves.
Had these environmental crusaders simply decided to have a video teleconference from the confines of their own seats of power or their homes, maybe I'd be more willing to listen. However, when I'm told that "we" need to combat climate change by people that are not doing the same, I have to ask myself "why."
Apparently, that "we" means "you and I" and not the ones making all those grandiose speeches. It always appears that climate change is for you and me, and somehow the ones shouting the loudest climate change message are also immune from the same thing.
Did I miss something here?
In the matter of fairness, I do know that Earth's environment has taken its fair share of punches over the years. One of the ones that hits closest to home -- literally I might add -- happened June 22, 1969, when the Cuyahoga River caught fire due to the amount of pollution dumped in the river over the years. It happened about an hour's drive from my parent's home in northeastern Ohio, which is why that fire still sticks in my head.
But I found out later that fire wasn't an isolated case. The same river burst into flames a total of 13 times with one in 1912 killing five people. It prompted Congress to pass the National Environmental Protection Act, which helped establish the Environmental Protection Agency.
While the United States has imposed a number of laws restricting air and water pollution, we can still see the level of damage mankind has caused when left unchecked.
Take the problems the people of Beijing are facing right now due to the industrial resolution happening there. The air is so polluted that it's unsafe for anyone to actually be outside -- if you could actually see anything outside that is.
Locally, we deal with pollution problems anytime the weather changes in the Treasure Valley. Under the right conditions, Boise gets covered in a blanket of smog, which gets a lot worse during fire season each summer in which going outside becomes an unhealthy option for those with asthma and other respiratory problems.
Yet despite all these problems, people will continue to live their lives without giving the environment much thought. They will continue to drive big, gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs, want to live in enormous house or want to live a life of luxury thinking that someone else will have to make sacrifices to protect our planet.
While I'm still a cynic, I try to avoid being a hypocrite and do what I can, even if it's just a small contribution.
Case in point: I'm an avid fan of recycling and do what I can to take every aluminum can, plastic bottle and empty cardboard box and ensure they end up in the blue recycling tote next to my garage. There are times that the tote is nearly overflowing while the garbage can next to it is nearly empty.
To me, it's a vivid reminder of how much we, as humans, consume every single day. It also illustrates how much of this reusable material used to end up in a garbage dump instead of being reused.
Speaking of which, I also try to reuse what I can versus rushing out and buying something new (which tends to annoy my wife at times). Instead of spending money on scented trash can liners, for example, I'm more of a cheapskate and use the plastic bags we end up accumulating each time we go grocery shopping.
Yes, my family does have those reusable shopping bags, which we store in both of our vehicles. However, it never fails that we forget to grab them anytime we go shopping. Maybe my New Year's resolution will involve a way to remember to grab those cloth bags instead of forgetting them in the trunk.
And, yes, I still put gum wrappers in my pants pocket. Call me sentimental, but good habits like that are hard to break.
-- Brian S. Orban