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Inhaltsangabe: We all know about the Earth's environmental crisis, but there is someone who can truly make a difference: you. If you text your friends or chat with them online, download music to your iPod, or toss bottles and papers into recycling bins, you're already more eco-savvy than you think. It's just as easy to do even more to help save the earth, and Generation Green shows you how. This book:
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
you are generation green!
When I was a kid, I didn't know that we were more environmentally conscious -- greener -- than my friends' families. I just thought everybody lived like we did, and there weren't a whole lot of other people around to tell me otherwise. From age four until I was nine my parents raised me in the woods in northern New Mexico, where we lived on hundreds of acres of raw land. My folks built our house themselves, which was 100 percent solar-powered. (Mom even juiced her laptop from the sun.) We lived "off the grid," meaning we weren't connected to the electrical system or public utilities. We didn't need an alarm clock; we just went to sleep after it got dark and woke up with the sun. It was so far away from everything that friends always got lost trying to find us down the maze of dirt roads. I loved it, even though we had so few of the things most kids take for granted -- working toilets, indoor heating, phones, trash pickup, a dishwasher. If we wanted water, we couldn't just turn on a faucet; we had to catch it from the roof -- did you know you can save hundreds of gallons from a single summer afternoon's storm? -- or lug it in five-gallon jugs from a well a quarter of a mile away. Water was so precious we'd even catch the morning dew in our tank.
As a five-year-old I used to help my folks chop up dead wood for heat with a small ax. That was a blast, and I never even got a nick. When my friends visited, Mom would take us on treasure hunts, looking for deer and moose tracks, and arrowheads. That was all great, but I had to use an outhouse for forever, which was a total drag. We had empty jars stored under the kitchen sink that we used for those "late night" emergencies when I didn't want to go outside in the pitch-dark and walk the thirty feet in the freezing cold to use the outhouse. And without a heater (can you say 22 degrees in the living room at three a.m.?) if I used one of those jars in the middle of the night in the wintertime, by morning the contents were often frozen. Okay, pretty gross, I know. T.M.I.
Living in a forest and being so close to nature changes you. I used to run for hours in the woods with my siblings -- ha, really my pack of dogs -- so townspeople called me Mowgli the Jungle Boy. Sometimes I'd put newborn puppies into my pockets to keep them warm while I went out walking in the snow. Life in New Mexico taught me so many things. Like how precious our natural resources are. You become a homegrown expert in low-impact living because being even a little wasteful in that environment feels all wrong -- like wearing a tuxedo to a hip-hop concert. Some things just don't go together.
We bought our land from a Native-American medicine man who lived in a small makeshift cabin nearby. We lived next to his tepee and his inepi -- an igloo-shaped contraption where he did these amazing sweat lodge ceremonies. The medicine man taught us to "walk lightly" on Mother Earth and ponder the thoughts of plants and rocks, "who had seen so much." He taught us to think about how everything we do affects future generations -- perhaps the most important lesson passed down to him from his elders. It's easier to learn that lesson when you're surrounded by grass and brown earth and can literally see your own footprints.
We saw so many different approaches to caring for the earth in rural New Mexico -- but also so many contradictions. The medicine man said that he wanted nothing but a can of beans every day and a tepee to live in, and that he dreamed of going totally back to nature -- but when he got a gas generator, he always had his TV blaring the news. The consique (tribal spiritual leader) of the Taos Pueblo, "Grampa" Pete Concha, told us he feared for our safety every time we went to "the outworld" -- Los Angeles, where Mom and Dad had to go for work (Mom's a writer and Dad's an actor). But wasn't our favorite city also sacred by just being part of the earth? I was confused. When we first moved to New Mexico, the locals didn't immediately trust our good intentions, calling us "Hollywood" and "Easy Money" and "Indian Wannabes." We had to work hard to fit in and convince them that we cared about the land and their ways as much as they did. Sometimes it felt like we were living in two worlds.
When I was in fourth grade, we moved back to a suburb of Los Angeles so my dad could be closer to his acting auditions and Mom could do press for her first book. Then I really did have to figure out how to live in two worlds! I remember being psyched about the running water -- turning the faucet in the bathroom on and off...how totally easy! It was around that time I quickly figured out that, unlike my dad, I was a city dude and loved living a more comfortable lifestyle. Flush toilets are the shizz! Mom and I are more alike in that way, but we're so grateful for our years living in the forest, for the seasons we spent living simply in the middle of so much natural beauty. It's too remote for more than brief visits right now, but that experience stays with you no matter where you go, kind of the way I imagine taking a long safari in Africa would. Or going to the moon.
Each day I find myself playing a balancing act in both of my lives. I love the best of what our modern world provides (like indoor toilets and heaters), but I don't want to stress out the planet to live my life.
I'm guessing you're doing that same balancing act. You're worried about pollution and global warming and running out of resources, but you also love your five pairs of designer jeans and daily custom-built Frappuccinos. I feel ya. And maybe it seems like global warming and other world problems are so big and "out there" that they barely touch you -- and it's not like you'll ever live on a melting glacier. But really, those problems and their ripple effects are closer than you think.
For instance, do you love going to the beach? If so, have you noticed the litter? Here on the West Coast they're always closing the beaches because bacteria-laden raw sewage keeps showing up in the water. Ugh, is anything more disgusting? According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, sewage spills and overflows caused 1,301 national beach closing and advisory days in 2006. Another fourteen thousand closing and advisory days were due to unknown sources of pollution. Ugh. On a good day you're cruising along the shore looking for seashells and you find a ton of plastic bottles instead. It's not only gross, but it's bad news, because those plastics don't biodegrade. They just break down into tinier and tinier pieces until they turn into a kind of toxic dust that the fish eat -- and then we eat the fish! Some scientists think there are six times as many of these microplastics in the oceans as plankton, which is one of the most important food supplies to aquatic life.
If you're not into the beach, maybe you love skiing or snowboarding. You can see signs of the ripple effects there, too. Thanks to rising global temperatures and record droughts, the snowpacks are often weak and unpredictable, and the ski season can end before it even seems to get rolling. Perhaps you have asthma, and pollution is making you wheeze? Or you're sick of all the rain. Or you aren't getting enough rain. Or you just want to go play sports without sucking down thick brown air. Maybe you live on the coast and everyone around you is nervous. It makes you wonder if the house you grew up in will be on dry land by the time you have your own kids.
So maybe it's starting to hit home that all this environmental stuff isn't really "out there." It's right in our own backyards, all around us. It's hard to believe, but while we were working on this very book, Mom and I had to pack up two cars' worth of our belongings and our dogs and cat in an hour and flee a raging wildfire at the top of our hill. And then, as we were finishing up the last chapters, Mom got stuck in the middle of a storm with eighty-five-mile-an-hour hurricane winds! It's as though Mother Nature's trying to make a statement here -- as if to warn us that she needs our cooperation! I've been reading about how fires and hurricanes and other extreme weather events are indications that the environment is stressed out, out of balance. Sure seems so. It's really gotten me thinking even more about what my friends and I can do to lighten our impact.
A lot of people think that teens are too self-involved to care about global issues. Sure, if your dad and mom are fighting or your ex-best friend is going out with your ex or your family cat just had to be put to sleep or you flunked your last math test, okay, you're going to worry more about that stuff than about a melting glacier thousands of miles away. At least for that day or week or month.
But that doesn't mean we don't care. I'm convinced we do. We're just not sure what to do next. My mom and I have a theory. We think both teens and adults are waiting to be asked to do more. We're expecting someone in power to ask us to step up, to sacrifice for the greater good. Like the Greatest Generation did during WWII when people rationed everything they used. Back in the 1940s people really appreciated the smallest things and found uses for everything. (My grandma took the burlap from flour sacks and made them into dish towels -- can you imagine?) I think teens today are just as willing to do our part; maybe we simply need a little more information and a little more motivation.
So that's why Mom and I are doing this book; it's our way of inviting everyone to step up and become our own Greatest Generation: Generation Green. We may not have gotten ourselves into this mess, but let's face it, our elders are hoping we find the solutions. So let's do it. Let's surprise everyone. Do you have anything better to do? Okay, don't answer that. Video games and texting BFFs don't count!
This book can help you get started. You'll be reading about a lot of different ideas here that you may not have heard before. We're not scientists, but we're passionate and a bit wacky, and we love to research and write about a...
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