I write this on a cloudy thirty-degree day as if in January or February – though thirty would feel warm during those frigid stretches we had. The forecast for Wednesday, when you may be reading this, is sixty-one and sunny.
The return of sunshine is a double blessing to anyone with solar panels or who buys into a solar cooperative. February was so grey, and the snow cover on solar panels so deep, that there wasn’t much production going on inside those passive little power cells. Even so, from March through October for those living in all electric solar homes, a normal season of sunshine in the Finger Lakes should achieve a balance between emissions produced and emissions taken out of the atmosphere – net-zero as they say. It is an odd, abstract way to enjoy nature.
Better still is riding a bicycle along the lake, over the railroad track, and along the bike path up to Waterloo. That’s a kind of net-zero too, because you are not producing any pollution as you expend numerous calories while having low impact upon the trail. Or just walking along the same, assuming you don’t litter and pick up after your dog (please pick up after your dog).
My parents were very strong Republicans and I can remember nothing positive said about LBJ or Lady Bird Johnson, except for Lady Bird’s promotion of the “Keep America Clean” campaign. “Ugliness is so grim,” Lady Bird said back in 1965, and “a little beauty, something that is lovely, I think, can help create harmony which will lessen tensions.”
She actually believed, and so promoted, the notion that beauty can improve the mental health of a society. Even now that is not an idea that lives at the forefront of our thoughts but how utterly true it seems. Think how differently we feel living through a prolonged cloudy, slushy, mushy grey February verses a spate of days in June or July when the lake is a royal blue reflecting an azure sky surrounding a brilliant sun. Wrapped in beauty, whether small and delicate or majestic and awesome, predisposes us to our better natures. Now that is not entirely true or people living in San Diego and Santa Fe would be kinder and gentler than those living in Boston or NYC. Hmm.
Anyway, the point is that mindfulness about how we maintain our environments, whether personal or communal, is not merely for the sake of climate change and the natural world. What our surroundings look like also has an impact within the human mind and by extension, the human community. When we pay attention to how our lifestyle and actions affect the environment, and work toward beautifying our own surroundings and those we share, it is a double blessing. We are conserving or protecting nature while improving mental health and nurturing a source of harmony in the community.
Few of us will make a huge, historic, life-altering impact on society. But all of us can take small, incremental actions that, with those of our friends and neighbors, will have an accumulative impact. Keep wearing a mask, pick up after your dog, don’t litter – each one small things in themselves but together, really powerful.