Santa Barbarans get into Earth Day with nearly the same enthusiasm as they do Halloween, complete with costumes, happy faces, and an all pervading sense of goodness designed to capture the heart of even the meanest of curmudgeons (me). Thus it was with the expectation of redemption from all of my earth-destroying transgressions for the past 12 months that I made my pilgrimage to the city’s locus of salvation, Alameda Park.
Believing devoutly that through suffering comes salvation, I figured that since my nitrous-burning PorsChev has been on blocks for the past 14 months, during which time I have driven my clean-diesel VW, about an hour should be enough to recalibrate my soul. But it was about that point in my sojourn I found myself transfixed by a Suburban with as many slogans pasted on its body as room would allow.
Barely had I read more than a half-dozen of its pearls of wisdom than the vehicle’s owner showed up with another sticker, searching for some less important bit of real estate to plant it. “NIMU,” it read with the authority of 6-inch high letters. Since I was unfamiliar with the term, I asked its meaning, expecting it to have emerged from the sacred tablets of some ancient civilization that has lived in peace and harmony safe from the evils of civilization. Not quite.
“Dude,” the young man replied with obvious pleasure at being able to educate someone of my advanced age, “Not In My Universe.”
“Not what in your universe,: I asked, thinking that something that all encompassing must be really important. Instead of allowing him to draw inspiration from the several hundred possibilities that shrieked their messages to the waiting world, the idea that anyone could ask such a question perplexed him.
“Dude,” he said with an edge to his voice, “Everything, man…you know, all this stuff that The Man puts out there for people to buy.”
“You mean stuff like your Suburban and boom box and designer shades?” I wanted to ask, but I found I couldn’t. “Oh, stuff,” was as much as came out of my mouth as I moved away.
Earth Day was founded on the premise that we all had a stake in protecting our environment from needless destruction, and that there were ways to live more harmoniously with nature. More than just a good idea, it’s a prescription for leaving things we take for granted to our heirs. But as I wandered the area I thought about how it had grown and evolved over the half century of its existence, and I found myself wondering how much of the essential message remained, or whether like the guy with the Suburban, the issue was external…more about The Thems than about us.