Remember the Brady Bunch episode when Greg writes a song, all the kids plan to record it, but Peter’s voice changes? Honestly, how can anyone forget the line, “When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange”? (And can you tell the Brady Bunch is a very popular show at my house?)
What you may not remember is that at the beginning of the episode, Greg had written a different “guaranteed hit”. “We Can Make the World a Whole Lot Brighter,” was a lovely tune about making the world a better place. I had forgotten all about this until I was walking around my house going about mundane tasks when a line from the song struck me… something about not cutting down trees. And then the line, “Don’t you know, it’s now or never.”
But it is, in fact, 41 years later. As we reflect on what has transpired in the past four decades, I think we can say that we did not heed the Brady kids’ warning.
People have been talking about changing the way we treat our world for as long as I’ve lived. It’s not that I didn’t know that the environmental movement began before the first Earth Day in 1969. Marvin Gaye was singing about it before the Brady’s did, and given the time it takes for a movement to enter pop culture, this had to be going on for quite a while. But since this time, we have chopped down more trees, our fish have even more mercury (and a bunch of other stuff too), and our air isn’t any cleaner.
People do recycle now. The crying Native American convinced us to cut back on littering. Eco-friendly products are taking up more shelf space in our stores… even in our big box retailers. Yet, there are so many ways our society has become more wasteful. Think about all the cheap plastic toys in McDonald’s Happy Meals and the Dollar Store, for example.
Our economy depends on people consuming. Many people still feel good about abundance. The image of the Christmas tree from which a river of gifts flows onto the living room floor… it’s iconic.
I wonder how many people out there are like me, who feel the push-pull of our culture and the conveniences the American lifestyle feeds? I bet there are plenty who cringe when they pick up a box of Uncrustables, knowing they should take the two minutes in the morning to make the sandwiches themselves. Maybe there are others who drive around in their (non-hydrid) SUV, lusting after the Prius in the parking spot next to them. I often find myself slapping my own hand when considering my choices as a consumer.
We all probably realize that our individual efforts are drops in an ocean without our government and the big players in our economy making major changes. And when this thought crystalizes, do you get frustrated to find yourself in this position? Do you give in and hope a more powerful entity will change? Or do you live your values, even though the world you live in makes it tough to do so? I wish the answer was as easy as a song.