I’ve been posting entries to this blog less and less frequently. Not because there’s less to write about but because the tide toward action pulls so strongly on me, and in so many directions at once, that I find it supremely challenging to simply sit down and write. There is so much happening on the green frontier, so fast. My attention is attracted like a magnet to every green cause I discover, to every green email and article. As a result, my head swirls and my TO DO lists get longer until I find myself mired in disorganization, spinning my wheels.
My family and I recently took advantage of a school break and our cache of Frequent Flyer miles and flew to Utah, where we visited the Grand Canyon and other parks. The most intense moment of the trip transpired as I entered the lobby of the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim and beheld the landscape just beyond its wall of windows. This view of the Grand Canyon, appearing as if out of nowhere, is striking and disorienting: there is nothing else like it on earth. I felt almost as if I’d been transported to a different planet. This landscape is vast, ancient, gloriously unsullied by humans, breath-taking and inspiring.
I took note of recycling efforts (and lack thereof) implemented in the places we visited. To begin with, the airports. We ate lunch in a small restaurant in the Milwaukee airport (we took an indirect route West) where every item consumed was served on or in a disposable container. Cups, plates, utensils, straws, condiment dishes, napkins: everything on the table went into the trash. I see practices like this and wonder, how can people – the owners of restaurants, the managers of airports - be so oblivious? Is no one aware of the importance of reducing consumption and waste?
On the positive side of things, airports offer tremendous potential for scale change.
Our hotels varied. A company that manages hotels in many of the western National Parks, Xanterra, has taken some steps toward becoming more efficient, such as using electric service carts, making recycling bins prominent on each hotel floor, installing liquid soap dispensers in the bathrooms in lieu of individually packaged bars of soap and bottles of shampoo, and providing water at meals only upon request. On the opposite end of the spectrum was the Comfort Suites hotel near the Salt Lake City airport. Unable to find any recycling receptacles along our hall, I sent my son to the front desk with a plastic bottle in hand; he was told by the staff that they knew they should start recycling but weren’t doing anything yet.
Hotels offer another opportunity for massive scale change…that should have happened yesterday.
I’m reading and highly recommend Thomas Friedman’s newest book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008). The book is in two parts: in the first, Friedman paints a picture of our global situation vis-à-vis energy use and climate change; in the second, he outlines a plan for change. Please read this. Friedman is the foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times and in this capacity has traveled the world extensively. His work abroad has given him a valuable global perspective – environmental, social and political.