Trying to Change Things
While you wait for your ride after school, you decide to take a walk. You go across the baseball field, glad to be out in the warm spring day. It's quiet in the forest, so quiet you hear your tennis shoes slide softly across the pine needles that cover the trail. Between the tops of the ponderosas you see blue, blue sky. Up over your head, a chickadee buzzes happily. Ten feet ahead an Abert squirrel, its feathery tail held high like a flag, scurries across the trail, swerving to avoid a faded Coke can. The breeze that feels so good on your face and bare arms plasters a dusty napkin on your jeans. You reach down to pull it off and you count three cigarette butts by your feet. A couple of yards to the side of the trail a plastic six-pack ring rests among the lavender wild iris. I'm sure you've been on this trail, or else you've been on the sidewalk that runs along Butler Avenue, or you've been on the playground or the baseball field: glad to be outside, only to have your mood ruined by litter. You probably know some of the terrible stories of birds dying from trying to eat cigarette butts or squirrels cut on pieces of metal. You may even have seen a wild animal in trouble sometime or other. You probably know the dismal facts about the time it takes for nature to break down this litter: years for cigarette butts, decades for paper, centuries for plastic and aluminum, eons for glass. So you can imagine what the forest and the area around the school are going to look like in a hundred years when your great-grandchildren open the time capsule at the Public Library. Of course some people are trying to clean up the mess. The Forest Service puts Smokey the Bear on TV to get us to be careful about fire in the forest. Michael Jordan does a commercial to tell us not to throw away old batteries carelessly. The Environmental Protection Agency helps pass bills like the Clean Air Act to get businesses to clean up after themselves.