My son graduated college last weekend. Sitting in the audience among a newly-minted sea of graduates and their families, I listened to speaker after speaker impart pearls of wisdom to the graduates. They spoke of fueling passions, finding patience, proceeding with integrity, working hard, accepting failure, and being kind, grateful, humble and ethical. Each speaker concluded by noting that the future belongs to the graduates.
The graduates looked like the lungs of the planet – soaking it all in. Like my son, many of these children, have experienced so many of nature’s gifts: days at the beach digging for buried treasure, astonishing rainbows to paint, spring flowers to pick, trees to climb, bugs to catch, strawberries to gather, birds to feed, and stars to wish upon.
As parents, many of us have been fighting to protect the environment since before our kids were born. We’ve educated ourselves, and our children. We made sure they grew up with Earth Day, and learned about the issues of conservation, pollution and climate change. We taught them that our planet comes with a simple set of instructions:
Take care of the water, land, and air.
I couldn’t help but conclude that even for those of us who have given our children deep ecological roots, somewhere along the line these simple instructions have been misplaced…
WATER POLLUTION has come about because of the dumping of chemical, biological and physical matter into the oceans, rivers, and streams. This has polluted our waterways and degraded the quality of life for people and wildlife that depend upon clean water. We discharge into U.S. waters 1.2 trillion gallons of sewage, storm water and industrial waste every year.
LAND POLLUTION has eroded the Earth’s natural surface. Industrial, commercial, domestic and agricultural activities have caused the land to lose 24 billion tons of topsoil each year. Some energy practices disrupt natural fault lines, pollute drinking water and accelerate climate change.
AIR POLLUTION is produced from energy emissions that accumulate and spew hazardous substances, harming humans and other living things. Every year, 335,000 Americans die of lung cancer. Air pollution is physically damaging and costly.
When we left the graduation ceremony, I noticed this quote on a blackboard:
“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.” ~ Bob Dylan
My hope is that the planet-saving roots that anchored so many of these 2011 college graduates to fertile ground will not be shook to the core by greed, politics and apathy. The future is theirs and they are going to need to get very, very wet.