By Peg DiBenedetto

I was planning to write about the pair of chickadees I saw, mating about 3 feet in front of me…then my plan changed. An article I saw in the Washington Post this morning stopped me cold.

Going down the checklist of the things within my control to make a climate change difference, I feel I’ve had a pretty good year. Install dual flush toilets: check. Trade out gas stove for electric: check. Install heat pump: check. Now, the big one. Purchase an electric vehicle which I’ve put off till the end because, well, the price, and also the research involved. Now, a glitch; a big one. The Post article paints a stark picture—the demand for batteries for “green” cars, phones, and storage has created environmental catastrophes from South America to Indonesia. The mining of metals—cobalt, lithium, and nickel is polluting lands, rivers, and drinking water sources, causing illnesses and deaths, and the process often uses enslaved labor, children included. My comfort and conveniences are ruining other parts of the world and I feel the need to reconsider some of my choices. Technology really failed us on this one. We need to develop other strategies to power up those things we’ve come to believe are essential to our lives. Someday heavy metals won’t be required for cars and phones; some other, better way will prevail. Maybe for now, though, it’s time to re-think the little portable computer/camera/phone in my pocket. I don’t need to upgrade to a new phone as often as I have. In fact, buying a refurbished phone—and home computer—is a very green thing to do, as it will save both in raw materials and carbon emissions. Could I survive with a refurbished phone? Darned tootin’ I could.

The news today is pretty depressing. Recently I’ve noticed a sadness that settles into my soul after watching accounts of the day’s happenings. I realize that the evenings I am outdoors walking the dogs or gardening or just watching the sun go down instead of in front of the TV, I’m happier.

And what to do with the news that gets me down? This story about batteries, for example? Grandkids. Education is the best defense against EVERYTHING. So spending time with them—talking, playing, enjoying them, and what I hope is subtle life instruction—encourages me about the prospects for the future.

I’ve taken up tree planting, too. This is a tremendously optimistic endeavor, given that the seedlings I put in the ground today will take decades to mature. The practice makes me feel hopeful, and less like the Debbie Downer I sometimes am. (Apologies to all who are named Debbie as I could not come up with a fitting substitution.) Two years ago I planted 25 very affordable native shrub seedlings from the NYS DEC around my property. Last year I gave away a dozen oak seedlings to my favorite friends and planted a dozen on our land. Yesterday I planted 80 evergreens of the Norway Spruce and Douglas Fir varieties. (Thanks again, NYS DEC!) Makes me feel that I am somehow providing for whatever generations follow me. A little more clean air, an occasional Christmas tree, and perhaps a mystery for future generations to ponder—who planted those trees?

For the sake of everyone around me, I will try to be more positive. There are so very many things in life to be grateful for, and I should not fear the future, for that will embitter me and rob me of hope. I will enjoy the enthusiasm of children. I will appreciate trees, and birds, and life, and bees. I will strive to wring every drop from each day that I live.

Because we don’t get another chance, and we’re lucky as hell to be here today. And I’d like the kids growing up in the Congo, Ecuador and Indonesia to have their shot, too. I’d like their environments to be verdant and healthy so that instead of working they can play and grow up strong and whole and happy.  I could buy refurbished for that.~