Back when we were coming up, when the East End was still a quiet place filled with farms and fishermen, the environmentalists were fond of saying “Make Every Day Earth Day.” It was a phrase guaranteed to make anyone who wasn’t a died-in-the-wool tree hugger roll their eyes, but we didn’t care. We said it anyway, because it was something we felt with all our hearts.  

You don’t hear many people saying this anymore, but we don’t think that’s because they stopped caring. It’s because the environmental ethos has become so ingrained in our way of thinking that we don’t have to say it to put it into practice. Green has gone mainstream.

But in this month of spring bulbs poking their heads through the wet soil, of cherry blossoms and freshly tilled fields, of threats of frost and promises of warmth yet to come, there’s still something special about honoring the roots of an environmental movement that must still reach deeper into the hearts of so many more people if we are to survive aboard this planet. 

When we are able to actually reconnect with the soil that covers the surface of this earth, we understand at a core level what it means to protect our home.

Everywhere you turn this month, there’s an opportunity for this connection — either in your own backyard or by helping out with one of the many community organizations that has pledged to protect our environment, which is our home. Quickly peruse our community calendar and you’ll find plenty of ways to get involved.

Connecting with one another is also a fine way of connecting with the Earth. Many of us have the same concerns, but unless we share them with our community, we may feel isolated, as if perhaps no one else understands the gravity of the predicament people are in as we attempt to wrangle control over our relationship with our home. We will never be in control of this partnership. Once we give that up, we can learn to live with the Earth on her terms.

The debate about how to decarbonize electricity alone is enough to preoccupy us for hours. We are just beginning to understand the unintended byproducts of our work to end our dependence on fossil fuels. In the end, we will likely have the most success if we diversify the ways we generate and store energy in the future. This is the quest that will define this time in Earth’s history.

But one fundamental conservationist truth still holds strong: The greenest kilowatt-hour is the one you never use.

We hear a lot in our travels here about the scourge of large houses that has long been a fact of life on the South Fork and has just begun its creep up to the North Fork. It’s difficult to commit to conservation when we see so much waste around us. Why should we take shorter showers when we’re surrounded by lawn sprinklers that aren’t smart enough to turn off when it rains? Why should we take the bus or ride a bicycle when our skies are filled with private jets

The East End has always been a ripe place for class warfare to thrive, and conservation seems on its face to be impossible to square with the excesses of wealth. It’s the proximity of this wastefulness that makes it so difficult to bear. It is in our faces, every day. 

So perhaps, these words this month are a plea to our neighbors who have the wherewithal to make a big difference. What would your life be like if you didn’t feel the need to live so large? Try it on. You just might like it.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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