What do a doctor and an environmental consultant have in common? Sometimes, we both get solicited for free advice at parties. For example, we may both get questions about foul air. In the doctor’s case, it’s probably a heavyset businessman holding an onion martini wondering how to cure a bad case of chronic halitosis. In my case, it might be concerned parent wondering about diesel bus emissions. Both good questions, and both carry significant negative societal impact.
So, with the above in mind, I proudly launch my environmental advice column. As we all have our environmental issues, I expect you will find the topics familiar and the advice trustworthy. Through this forum, I hope we can grow together by openly discussing our collective environmental faults. As you read the questions from other ordinary folks just like you and me, you may find yourself taking a long look in the mirror, examining the skeletons in your closet, or maybe even shedding a tear -- just please don’t corner me at a cocktail party while I’m trying find the waiter with those coconut covered shrimp thingees.
If global warming continues as currently projected, can I start wearing white after Labor Day? My hippy kid sister with the underarm hair says yes, but my Cosmopolitan subscribing girlfriends say no. Who’s right?
-- Stylistically Confused
Dear Stylistically Confused:
Ignore the fashion snobs, pinch your nose, and give your sister a hug. Stay in tune with the thermometer. Thin white fabric makes for great hot, sunny weather attire - no matter the calendar date. But, if going commando, just watch out for flash downpours while wearing white.
I drive a hybrid (downhill only, I push it when going uphill to conserve even more fuel), compost all kitchen scraps (I’m certified by the Composting Zealots Society for Progress), and I avoid pharmaceuticals (if it doesn’t occur in nature, it must be evil). Problem is, I caught my Exxon executive neighbor throwing away plastic number 5 in the regular trash (although municipal recycling ordinance clearly allows yogurt cups) and he leaves the front porch light on past 9 p.m. (and it’s an incandescent bulb!). Should I accost him (in the name of the defenseless Mother Nature)?
-- Troubled Neighbor
Dear Troubled Neighbor:
Take a step back and relax (and please try to ease-up on the parenthetical asides). Remember, environmental isn’t the only metric people use when making decisions. No eco-inspired violence, please. Education is key. Therefore, I recommend sharing some Public Works recycling literature with him, or you might want to tune his car dial to National Public Radio when he’s not looking.
The neighborhood kids have taken to calling me a treehugger, while pointing, laughing, and taunting. Treehugger this, treehugger that - it’s all I hear. Just because I ride my bike to work, don’t use any fertilizers, and reuse my shopping bags. These are crimes? So what if I collect rainwater in barrels? I mean, what's the big deal - why do they have to be so mean? People act like they’ve never seen a grown man strip naked and cuddle with an oak tree in the front yard when he gets home from work.
-- Barking Mad
Dear Barking Mad.
You had my sympathy, until that last part. I think I understand why they call you a treehugger. I love trees as much as anyone, but as a neighbor, I’d have to frown on your after work canopy canoodling. For the love of Arbor Day, put some pants on and admire the tree from a distance like the rest of civilized society.
The evidence is pretty clear. I’ve found methane, ozone, and water vapor in his room. Last week, I caught him exhaling carbon dioxide at a party. I really think my son is experimenting with GHG - greenhouse gases. Is it too late?
-- I Don’t Want to Be a Climate Change Parent
Dear I Don’t Want to Be a Climate Change Parent:
First of all, congratulations for having the courage to confront the issue. Second of all, no it’s not too late. Youth today need boundaries and strong parents to overcome the temptations of GHG abuse. The good news is that GHG in moderation are okay. In fact, they’re vital for our very existence. It’s the rate of atmospheric deposition that we need to monitor closely. Find a quiet time and have a calm, frank discussion with your son about the dangers of GHG overindulgence.
Thanks for reading the first edition of my advice column. Feel free to ask your environmental questions in the comment box below. I’ll do my best to get back to you in a future column.