PORTLAND, ORE. — Another year of daily wear and tear begins for planet Earth. It's hard to say what role environmental issues will play in the upcoming presidential race. Iraq and the economy will probably generate most of the campaign noise.
So here are a few low-key suggestions that will enable every American to make an individual contribution toward easing the strain on our global habitat during the next 12 months. It's my ecological version of quiet diplomacy.
1. Get more sleep. Whenever you are not awake, there is a very high probability that you are not engaging in polluting activities such as burning trash in the backyard, applying pesticides in the garden, or driving. Sleeping is definitely an Earth-friendly activity.
2. Limit your circle of friends. Socializing is inherently degrading to the environment. It generates dirty glasses, empty beverage containers, soiled table linens, and other negative outcomes. Having fewer friends will minimize these problems and also help you save money by not having to buy so many presents for birthdays, anniversaries, and other interpersonal celebrations.
3. Think about a hobby. I said "think." Actually engaging in a hobby - model airplanes for example - can consume valuable resources and clutter up your house. But if you just think about model planes, coin collecting, or trading sports cards, you'll get all the mental stimulation of these pursuits without the hassles, frustrations, and the leftover packaging.
4. Support mime. It could just be the most environmentally sensible form of entertainment ever devised. Mime doesn't require extensive props or acoustic amplifiers, so use of raw materials is greatly reduced. It avoids the obnoxious loudness of rock concerts and the brain pollution of comedy clubs. Mime should be encouraged at every opportunity, albeit quietly.
5. Control your elders. Sad to say, many parents fall into irresponsible ecohabits as they get older. Buying a gigantic motor coach that gets 8 miles per gallon is the most obvious example. To curb such impulses, try to get your folks involved in activities that will keep them close to home. A new DVD player and a complete set of "Star Trek" episodes would be a good start. Other useful gifts might include a police scanner and an encyclopedia of magic tricks.
6. Wear gloves. Keeping your mitts covered during the day cuts down on washing, thus saving water and curtailing use of soap or detergents. If you can't wear gloves all the time, consider using them for certain "pollution risk" situations such as petting domestic animals, taking out the garbage, or shaking hands with political candidates.
7. Stay calm. Getting angry can cause rapid breathing and higher oxygen consumption. The atmosphere is being strained every day by modern industrial activities. It doesn't need the added burden of increased human metabolic rates.
This last suggestion may be the most difficult because we have now entered a phase of the calendar when massive numbers of agitated citizens will be hyperventilating collectively on a regular basis. It's an occurrence that's very hard to prevent during a presidential election year.