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Celebrating earth day remembering Japan

Yesterday being Earth Day I consciously thought about how I remain careful to recycle, reuse and not pollute the environment. Small steps. One person. Bending over to pick up one or two beer cans on the edge of our property wasn't too much to ask of myself on my walkabout.

One of the best surprises in my travel life was observing Japan with its huge population in a small goegraphical space and its intentionally clean environment. Everywhere I went in public spaces it was spotless, and without the aid of trash baskets either. Often I would put a leftover napkin or wrapper in my pocket until I returned to my hotel room. At the ice cream stand the woman behind the counter looked at me with no comprehension of what I was pantomining to her - outer wrapper from cone needs a receptacle. There wasn't one.

The mindset of the Japanese is focused on the beauty of the earth and living in the midst of the natural elements.

To me, passing through a crowded train station - no graffiti or dirty areas - was a worshipful moment as much as lingering in a perfectly manicured garden. Both were pure and visually pleasing demonstrating a great respect for nature.

Once at the busiest intersection in downtown Tokyo, I waited for the traffic light to change surrounded by humongous throngs of working folks. I had never seen so many people in one small space; however, it was quiet. No loud talking. No horns or sirens. For a brief moment I thought that my hearing had gone. Noise pollution is not part of the culture.

It is disturbing to be in other parts of the world and cast my eyes upon virtual garbage heaps along roadsides without looking away in shame. The plastic bags. Water bottles. Open air burning. Day-to-day life is a struggle and that is where the priorities tend to be focused. I have to leave it at that.

One of my favorite environmentalists, Bill McKibben, helps me to end this post so aptly.

Kamarura, Japan

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