Monday, August 1, 2011

Treading Lightly

The quest for “sustainability” is a continuing challenge we pose to ourselves: “What shall I do – what shall WE do – to welcome those who would tread lightly on Earth into our community?”

Thus we would ask, “What do those who tread lightly need from me and my neighbors?”

First we should recognize that “treading lightly” is not merely a figure of speech – it has everything to do with how much stuff, how much land, and how much energy one demands. Indeed, “treading” is all about motion: mass, speed, size, momentum, displacement, kinetic energy. The more one takes, the faster one goes, the further one travels, the heaver the treading. There may be no better indicator of our footprint on Earth than the odometer reading in our car multiplied by the aggressiveness of our driving.

Offhand we might think those who demand little in the way of stuff, land, and energy would need little else from their neighbors, but this is not so. Why? Treading lightly is by nature a fragile undertaking – one which cannot take root and thrive where the swift, the powerful, and the heavily armored dominate the landscape. It is no overstatement to say that “Light Treaders” are an endangered species in this nation, and that we-the-people continue to degrade and destroy suitable habitat for them. If you are wondering whether this pertains to zoning codes, sprawl, self-segregation, and automobile dependence, the answer is an emphatic “Yes!”

I will end with a specific challenge. Children – left to their own devices – are some of the Lightest Treaders still extant. What, my friend, are you doing where you live to make it safe, practical, and pleasant for children to walk to school, ride their bicycle to soccer practice, run over to their friend’s house to play?

I would suggest there is nothing they need more from us than our feet…on the ground…with them.

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