IDEAS For Us | April 28, 2016

Sunsets Vs Starbucks

Just over my backyard’s fence is a wide open sky. Every evening as I cook dinner, I happily gaze at the pastel pinks, blues, and yellows that cut across the last hours of daylight. I love my nightly sunset. Now they want to put a Wal-Mart in front of it.

If the rumor is true, the vacant plot of land that once housed oranges groves will be repurposed into some vast expanse of concrete and steel. I will not stand for this. They cannot take my sunset away.

Now, I’m no environmentalist. I fit under the casual eco-thusiast umbrella like many others: we recycle when convenient, purchase “green” products if it’s a cheaper alternative, and donate our spare change on the random occasion. Should this Wal-Mart break ground two blocks away, I’d think nothing of it. But right in my backyard? Not if I have anything to say about it.

Admittedly, I am severely undereducated in most environmental matters, but I did retain a thing or two from grade school: Pollution is bad. No kidding. Everyone can agree that there is no reason a Styrofoam cup should be put to rest on the side of a highway. But what about developmental pollution? Is it really necessary to “pollute” every street corner with cookie cutter businesses? A large part of the general population will cheer when a strip of trees is replaced with a strip mall. Why should they, we, I care if some clump of woods become a more convenient way to obtain goods and services?

The reality: caring for the environment is hard work. With a reward that is considerably less tangible and glamorous than saving cute puppies or helping sick children, planting trees or picking up garbage just isn’t that appealing to the masses. Medical charities don’t ask us to throw on a lab coat; why should we be asked to dig around in the dirt? Besides, a preserve across the road is nice, but a Starbucks in its place would be much more favorable.

How do we, devoted environmentalists and apathetic citizens alike, come together to create impactful change while the world continues to develop to our selfish desires? Is it activism or education that our society needs most? The world will not grow greener tomorrow unless those that care, and those that don’t, find a common ground today. Do we need more forests or schools, more hospitals or lakes? Should we save an ecosystem if it means we suffocate from our own overcrowding?

Can collaboration fuel this revolution or will real change have to wait until self-interests and our figurative sunsets are put in jeopardy?