Just ask Nicely, and You'll Save the World

Live Earth broke ground for global environmental awareness last weekend as musicians around the world lent their voices to a cry for people everywhere to be good stewards of our natural resources. As I read about the concert, I thought about the AdCouncil commercial of the 1970s--Iron Eyes Cody, the iconic Native American weeping over a landscape desecrated by garbage. One Indian, one tear, one point: "People Start Pollution. People can stop it." It was a heart-breaker, and it kept me from tossing my gum wrappers out the window. It worked for me and for a lot of people.

He was to my childhood what the the flower fairies, a young marine biologist and, my dad have been to my daughter over the past week.

The fairies teach my daughter the name and magic of flowers. They invite her into the world of make believe and wonder about the world around her through the real world of natural beauty. They have made her sensitive to the natural world.

Similarly, a marine biologist from Cedar Cove Marina taught some local kids about this amazingly life-rich estuary known as Long Island Sound at our public library last week. In the 1970s, I thought of Long Island Sound as a very large sewer. No more. The marine biologist talked about the local crab life, the exotic beings who came into our waters on oil barges from Asia who are now local, the wonder of the seahorse, and the extraordinary defense mechanisms of the lobster.

Then there's dad, who just spent a week in North Carolina with mom at their home on the beach. He told my daughter about the lengths their neighbors go to to protect sea turtles. These ancient creatures come to the dunes to lay their eggs in May, where they incubate for 60 days. The neighbors are mindful that their lighting can confuse the turtles about the timing of all of this, so they keep their outside lights off at this time. Once the turtles lay the eggs, volunteer human nest parents guard them round the clock for the two months before they hatch. Once that happens, folks come out to clear the way for the 2-inch turtle young to make their way back to the ocean. Dad says people line up along the turtles' path to keep them safe from predators.

My dad's story captivated my daughter's imagination and mine. Sometimes the song and dance routine isn't necessary. Sometimes if you just "ask nicely," as my mom used to say, things get done right and well by people who mean well and are willing to be taught. I thing of that turtle, and I weep like that Indian.

The holy earth. We must take such care of it. It must take such care of us. (Frederick Buechner, Daily Readings in the ABC's of Faith)


  1. Except that, "Iron Eyes Cody" was not really a Native American and it sort of frosts our cookies that people think he was :)

    I too loved that commercial and the point of it. Which we seem to have missed.

  2. PR, like other forms of fiction, uses lies to tell the truth, I guess.


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