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Opinion: Some myths about celebrating Earth Day

Originally published April 22, 2017.

Earth Day, which we will celebrate this weekend, is a wonderful event because it focuses our thoughts on taking care of the planet we live on.

For example, we should get our lawns mowed and our weeds hoed, and sweep our sidewalks so that everything is neat and tidy. We should prune bushes and trees, as well.

I have to say, however, that I am not especially good at pruning, even on Earth Day. For me, it is a very small step between pruning and chopping down. Whenever I venture into the yard with my pruning shears on Earth Day, Mother Earth says, “go back inside, please. This is the day to preserve the earth, not destroy it.”

I once had a laurel hedge that was the width, breadth and height of a small forest, sort of like the ones you see on that educational television show, “Great Castles of England.” It was the envy of the neighborhood. Well, perhaps not the envy. More like the shame. When I finally got around to trimming it, I had to hire two men with a dump truck to haul away the trimmings.

There are some myths surrounding Earth Day that I think need clearing up. One of those myths, perhaps premier among them, is that we all would be better off growing our own vegetables instead of buying them from the grocery store or the produce stands.

If that were true, I ask myself, why don’t we see more backyard vegetable gardens? If you live in the city and you walk around your neighborhood, you might see one backyard vegetable garden, maybe two. And there are reasons for that. The first reason is that gardening is a lot of work. You have to prepare the soil in the spring. You have to plant the seeds. You have to pull the weeds. You have to fight the slugs and other pests that want to eat your produce as much as you do. You have to keep the neighborhood cats from using the garden as a toilet. Oh, the joy. And then, when you pull a carrot or dig a rutabaga to eat, you discover to your dismay that worms already have dined on the carrot and the rutabaga before you, and that the carrot and rutagaba really don’t taste any better than the ones you buy in the store.

In fact (and here’s the second reason you don’t see many backyard vegetable gardens)the veggies in the store actually taste better, because they are grown by people who know what they are doing. Those people are called farmers.

And, because of another myth, farmers often are portrayed as the enemy by city folks who feel that by celebrating Earth Day and denigrating farmers they are actually helping out Mother Earth. But if you were to interview Mother Earth, she probably would tell you she would prefer it if city folk would stay home that day and watch nature shows on the public television channel instead of gathering in parks and leaving messes for other people to clean up. Those other people, by the way, are called gardeners, and their jobs are to keep the parks and yards of the city looking as much as they can like the Great Castles of England without busting the local budgets. These gardeners include those brave souls who grow carrots and rutabagas in their back yards and roses in their front yards, and who aren’t afraid to bend over weeding so long that they can barely straighten up when they are through.

Mother Earth would tell you that farmers and gardeners are the ones who keep Mother Earth looking good and producing things that people need.

And she would tell you to ignore the myth that we all would be better off if we ate no meat, but only ate vegetables and grains.

That doesn’t mean that people who don’t want to eat meat should have to eat it. On the contrary, we all should be able to eat what we want to, because Mother Earth with the help of farmers, produces pretty much everything we need eat or wear.

Another myth is spread around by people who say we would be better off not eating beef or drinking milk, because cattle, from which beef and milk come, are notorious for breaking wind, and we all know “wind” is methane, which causes air pollution.

But we would have to worry about getting rid of a lot more than cattle to get rid of methane. Keep in mind that cattle are vegetarians, along with most of the populations of some countries, not to mention a good share of San Francisco.

So, let’s all think about our planet today, about how we can keep it clean and leave it in better shape than we found it for the generations of people to come.

Those of us who have been around for awhile know this is happening.


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