It’s Not Easy Being Green

H. Steven - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Entered on December 31, 2007

Do you remember the song “Being Green” that Kermit the Frog sang on the TV show Sesame Street, starting in 1970? It seemed to poignantly reflect the challenges of being different. I’ve now come to wonder whether it also anticipated the challenges of global warming.

Nowadays, green is more associated with rallying to the cause of reducing global warming. I’ve been a latecomer to the cause. For most of my 60 years, I could be considered one of the most wasteful individuals on the planet. At least that’s what my wife says. I leave on lights, waste paper, and consume energy without thinking. That is, until Earth Day 2007.

Right before this last Earth Day, my third grandchild was born. She and her Rabbi parents just happened to be visiting us that Earth Day. Coincidentally or not, I was reading the paper that morning about some of the related activities being held in Milwauee. Not that I was planning to go to any.

Then I went to the convenience store, as I do most mornings. “Paper or plastic?”, I was asked by the clerk as usual. I was about to say plastic, as it is easier to carry, but all of a sudden I was speechless. Then I started to stutter. My mind seemed to be asking me, does it matter for my granddaughter what I answer? I finally got out “plastic”, but went home feeling shaken and guilty.

I realized I needed some answers. Finding out about the bag was easy. Just bring my own!

What did my Jewish and other religions say about this? This was pretty easy to find out, too. Be stewards about the land, they all seemed to say. Warnings had already come in the stories of the Noah flood and the loss of the garden of Eden.

Then what about my profession of psychiatry? There indeed seemed to be a psychological component to global warming. Our brain is hardwired to respond to immediate danger with the classic fight-or-flight response. There is nothing comparable to danger that may be many years in the future. I call this the shrug-and-hug response. And behavioral change is often not easy. Besides, if you live in a climate like my Milwaukee, don’t most of us want a little warmer winter?

Putting all this together, what I should do is now clear. I’m making some progress, though I forget my tote bag at times. Actually, when I bring it, I have to deal with the amazement of the clerks. Apparently, not too many others are bringing their own bags. For fun, I bought a Jolly Green Giant costume and call myself the Jolly Green Psychiatrist whenvever I wear it! I speak out professionally wherever I have the chance.

I’ve even gotten a little political, trying to advocate Al Gore to run for President.

This I’ve finally come to clearly believe. I – and all of us around the world – must try to ensure the well-being of our planet for future generations. This is the least we can do out of gratitude for being alive. Now I’ll be able to answer my granddaughter without reservation if she ever asks me what I did to cool down global warming.