I suspect it's a cliché to suggest that the year 2020 brings vision to mind, but since it does, I'd like to take this time to express gratitude for all those conservation-minded people and organizations with the vision to, hopefully, help us improve our individual and collective environmental footprint.
From a personal standpoint, I feel grateful for the kismet that has delivered an influential collection of teachers, leaders and reminders that continue to reinforce the value of acting on an individual level to lessen my own negative impact on the ecosystem we all inhabit.
My daughter recently prodded me—unintentionally—to take much more care in this regard. How? She told a friend I was a "treehugger." I took it as a compliment (which is how she meant it), but it got me thinking of all the ways in which I am not. Sure, I've been trying to do better for a long time—which obviously makes her think I've earned the name. But overall, there is more I can do. Should do.
My dad introduced me to the delight of being outside as much as possible when I was young, but the first person I can remember discussing environmentalism on a collective scale—and as a moral calling—was Bert Lancaster, the pastor at Wesley United Methodist, where I attended church as a teen. I recall his Earth Day discourses being epic, but a love for nature and a call to ecological stewardship featured regularly in his sermons.
Community recycling programs started popping up in my hometown around that time, but I'll admit that I was never avid about reducing my waste. First, because as young person scraping by, I didn't make much waste. Later, because those early lessons faded.
And then my kid told a friend I was a "treehugger," and my focus shifted, underscored by news story after news story on the accumulating damage of our current lifestyles.
Since then, I've tried to be far more aware and focus on areas where we can make improvements. It's been like a game of Duck Duck Goose: two easy fixes, followed by a chase for a solution. We're getting somewhere, and faster than I expected, but there will always be one more thing we could do better.
And the same applies on a collective level. There will always be one more thing we could do better.
And so, to those organizations and professionals who support this industry while also working toward conservation, thank you. This includes associations that name conservation among their central tenets, like the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and others; the architects and manufacturers who design facilities and create equipment that helps reduce the use of water, chemicals, energy and other resources; and the park districts, school districts, aquatic facilities, universities, camps and others who work to find ways to reduce their footprint as they bring recreation, sports and fitness to their community.
Thanks to your commitment and innovation, we have come so far. Thanks to your vision, we can keep getting better and better. RM
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