An environmentalist's wish for a perfect, spring Easter day

April 01, 1999

One of my fondest memories of childhood is coming out of Sunday school one Easter morning into a perfect spring day.

[cont. from lifestyle]

The air was absolutely clear, it was 70 degrees, there was just the hint of a breeze, and the only clouds in the sky were the white, billowy kind. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I really could believe that God was in his heaven and all was right with the world.

Then I became an environmentalist.

Needless to say, things haven't been the same since.

That's not to say that there are no more spring mornings like that. They DO happen, in spite of air pollution, climate change, overpopulation, deforestation and sport utility vehicles.

However, it is getting harder to enjoy days like that, just as it's harder to enjoy nature programs on television. No sooner do I get into a one-hour show about orangutans or penguins than I'm told they're on the verge of extinction because of some environmental menace.


Likewise, just as I let myself wallow in the glories of that perfect Easter morning, I start thinking about the downside.

I feel the sun on my skin and think about the ozone hole and skin cancer.

One glance at that Easter ham and I envision gigantic hog farms spewing millions of gallons of waste into rivers in North Carolina or Frederick County, Md.

Or maybe it's a leg of lamb, like my mother might have fixed on that perfect Easter Sunday, with mint sauce. Then I recall the news article about Italian animal welfare activists appealing to the Pope to stop the slaughter of 2 million newborn lambs for Easter dinners in Italy every year.

Poof! There goes my perfect Easter day.

However, I promised myself to try something different this year. After all, Easter is a time of faith and hope and regeneration. Surely I can manage to spend this one day looking on the bright side.

My problem is that I tend to see things in decline. That's easy to do anytime I open a newspaper, where there's bound to be an article about an oil spill in Oregon, manatees being killed by motorboats in Florida or farmland being paved over for shopping malls in Washington County.

When this gets too depressing, I go outside and plant something - flowers that attract butterflies or a tree. Actions like that may not seem like much, but at least they make me feel like I'm doing something positive, rather than dwelling on decline and ecological degradation.

Sometimes I fantasize that the big environmental catastrophe has happened and the world is a wasteland. But all human beings are working together, almost as in a war effort, to restore the earth to its natural beauty.

To me, that's like the Easter spirit: When hope has been lost and everything looks bleak, there is resurrection and renewal and hope.

I certainly hope the catastrophe never comes, but at least today, regardless of the weather, I'm going to appreciate the wonderful things about this earth in the proper spirit of Easter.

But I do hope it's a perfect day, like that one in my childhood so many years ago.

Dennis Shaw is a former Herald-Mail editor. Write him at P.O. Box 276, Clear Spring, Md. 21722, or call 301-842-3863.

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