Monday, April 26, 2010


This time next week the Malice Domestic Conference will be over. All last week I was thinking that my blog ought to say something about DAME AGATHA'S SHORTS, my companion book to Agatha Christie's short stories that's been nominated for an Agatha award, which will be given at the convention next Saturday night. Yes, I'm a mess of nerves. Yes, I have nothing to wear to the banquet. Maybe this is the reason I haven't let my brain dwell too much on the upcoming conference. Too much? Who am I kidding? I've been keeping myself in complete denial.

But, one thing has been on my mind a lot the last week: Earth Day.

Back in 1970, when the first Earth Day organizers were trying to get schools involved, my junior high ran a poster contest. The year before, The Fifth Dimension released "Age of Aquarius/Let
the Sunshine In" as a single, and like everyone else in my class, I knew every word and could sing all the harmonies. For my poster, I got a big piece of black cardboard, pasted a bright yellow and orange construction paper sun in the middle, and in bold red cut out letters above and below pasted "LET THE SUN SHINE IN." Even then I played with words, changing "shine" to a verb. That poster earned 4th place, Honorable Mention. Not too shabby for a school with several hundred kids.

The high school started an Ecology Club and the next year, I helped them clean out part of our local creek. Our group only tackled about a third of a mile of the stream, but we filled a dump truck with the stuff we pulled out, including 24 shopping carts, 4 cars worth of parts, and 100-plus cans. Thinking back on how filthy that water was, it's amazing that none of us (to my knowledge) got anything worse than sunburn and poison ivy that day.

But even before the whole Earth Day movement took hold, one of my favorite pastimes was hiking in the woods with my family or Girl Scout troops. I've loved nature all my life. In second grade, my career ambition was to be an ornithologist. My favorite vacations are in gorgeous wildernesses with no fast food places or housing developments in site. My favorite hobby is gardening.

When I created the character of teenager Beth Ann Lee, before I knew anything else about her--before I knew she was a science geek, or that she played clarinet in band and had a secret crush on a trumpeter, or that she could sometimes see ghosts--before any of that, I knew she had my love of nature. She was the logical character to be an environmentalist--someone who'd grown up and run free in a beautiful forest. Someone who could intuitively understand ecological connections because she'd lived with them since birth.

Earth Day this year brought together all these thoughts. It's been 40 years since I made that poster, yet new "Clean Air" legislation might take away the EPA's authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. 40 years progress lost. I look at the "Beth Anns" I know now and wonder if they'll be able to clean up our mess.

I hope so.

Make each day Earth Day.

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