No, I was not born in Pownal. I was not brought up here. I was born and raised on Long Island, where in the 1950s we used to regularly see pods of porpoises sporting off the beach. I’ll never forget the joy we felt at the sight of those happy beings bouncing in and out of the sunlit waves. It’s a memory that made us who we are. Then we didn’t see the porpoises anymore.
We used to walk up the hill to a meadow with our mother, and we loved to picnic in that meadow. It felt like the country to us. It’s a memory that made us who we are. Then the bulldozers came, and the meadow was gone forever, replaced by a development.
In summer, we’d go swimming at Mount Sinai beach, which had a huge salt marsh behind it, and a fascinating old recluse who lived on a houseboat and ate clams he dug. Then they dredged the salt marsh, and we never saw the old man again … just a memory.
I heard another old man say that anyone who gets outside a lot, anyone who hunts or fishes or hikes or gardens or farms or cross country skis or watches birds, if they’ve been paying attention, they know that climate change is real. Old codgers younger than I am — 68 — will tell you there’s less snow than there used to be. Those who gather maple syrup …Charley Moses.
We’ve all witnessed losses, not just loss of habitat, but property postings that exclude people from hunting and riding where they’ve always hunted and ridden, for example.
There are getting to be less and less hideaways for all of us, both wildlife and people. Sure, people who live in the city have to deal with pollution, carbon emissions and habitat degradation because they choose to live too close to other people. But so do we. Our cars, our heating fuel, our electricity are contributing to the excess of carbon in the entire system, degrading the atmosphere that surrounds and protects our world. Our consumption of goods wrapped in plastic and our reliance on the convenience of plastics contributes to the indisputable fact that microbits of plastic have been found in our drinking water and the ocean. Us and them, country and city, red and blue — these divisions are no longer relevant. They’re just labels that divide us. Will our great-grandchildren respect the fact that we allowed these labels to prevent us from trying to save their ozone layer, their atmosphere, their water, their ocean, their climate?
Back when I was a little kid, those losses I talked about began to feel inevitable. There wasn’t anything I could do. Maybe it would be better not to love a place too much? Should I have stopped myself from loving beauty? Should we stop loving Pownal? Should we stop loving this world? Or should we try to do a small, obvious thing, like picking up trash — nothing earth shattering, just a way to show respect and love for our woods and fields and streams?
Whether you’re from here or not depends on your perspective. I’m from here, and I love it: planet Earth.