This column originally appeared on Palo Alto Patch.
I must have been seven, maybe eight, when I first saw that now ubiquitous bumper sticker. We were idling at a stop light in our huge beige station wagon with its ultra powerful V8 engine. In front of us was a well travelled VW bus with a singular message on its backside. The words were written in soft but commanding script and at the end of the letters was a blue and green orb. The bumper sticker said, “Love Your Mother.” It felt like a message from God.
You see, I was quite mad at my mother right then. She had let my younger brother sit in the front seat. I thought that seat was reserved in perpetuity for the oldest child: me. Apparently, she didn’t agree.
How could I love my mother when loving her meant I didn’t get to do what I wanted? Loving my mother seemed awfully hard right then.
Sometimes it still does. No. Not my real mother, but the mother that bumper sticker was calling me to love: Mother Earth.
In order to love her, I have to change my behavior and do things I do want to do. I have to separate the compostables from the recyclables. I have to walk more, drive less, and carpool when I can. I have to eat more vegetables and avoid red meat. I even have to remember to bring my own bag when I shop and turn off the lights before I leave the house.
When something breaks, I have fix it rather than rush out and replace it. I have to learn to borrow rather than buy. I have to stop standing in front of the open refrigerator trying to decide what I am going to make for dinner and when I brush my teeth, I am supposed to turn off that faucet rather then let it run and run. And, I have to stop dreaming of a new car because in truth my seven-year-old, slightly dented Prius stills gets forty-four miles to the gallon.
And that’s just the beginning.
I have to be willing to pay higher taxes to support the push for clean technology because my lazy indifference has lead to a reliance on oil which is doing nobody any good. I have to lobby my politicians to remind them that coal fired plants emit toxins which hurt my children and my mothers. And worst of all, I have to sign petitions and write letters and even march down streets and across the internet to convince others to also do stuff they don’t want to do.
I’m exhausted and frankly a little pissed off. It was so much easier when my privilege of being first meant I didn’t have to worry about those who came after me.
But, as my own mother so beautiful modeled, sometimes we have to think and act in ways that aren’t just about us.
Darn that’s some tough love, now isn’t it?