By Mary O’KEEFE
When I was shifting through my thoughts of what to write this week I of course went to Thanksgiving. I had started to research what the weather was like on that 1621 Thanksgiving, which more likely occurred at the end of September/first of October – not in November as that was long after the harvest. According to historians, the writings about that day didn’t mention the weather so they assume it was pretty nice, maybe even sunny.
So when did Thanksgiving month change? Actually it is due to President Abraham Lincoln that we celebrate it in November.
In 1863, President Lincoln said Thanksgiving should be celebrated on the last Thursday of November, and so it was. But the date changed again due to shoppers.
Yep – although the pilgrims may not have been driven by consumerism, those who followed them certainly were, and continue to be. In 1939 there were five Thursdays in November. So the last Thursday was very late in the month, which would really cut into retail sales for the holidays. So in August 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided Thanksgiving would be moved up a week. A lot of people were not happy with this change and, because it was not a federal holiday, the timing of the celebration was left to the individual states. That first year, 23 states celebrated on the old date, 22 on the Roosevelt new date and three celebrated on both dates. The following year Roosevelt moved it to the second to the last Thursday, which again did not see a universal agreement among states. But in 1941, Congress decided to make the date official and passed a resolution that Thanksgiving would be the fourth Thursday of the month.
My plan was to continue with my research into Thanksgiving; however, have you ever seen or read something that takes hold of not only your heart but also your soul? Something that you can’t research past? I read and researched a lot about climate change. To be honest, I love researching a variety of subjects, but climate change and how it is affecting us is really an everyday go-to for me. I am usually upset, down right angry, saddened, at times hopeful, but normally left completely exhausted by the writings and the visuals. Then there are times when one thing in particular makes my breathing slow down with anger and that thing stays in my mind. In this case it was a recent Instagram post by Climate Save Movement.
A diver was filming a small fish that was struggling on the bottom of the ocean bed. At first it was not easy to tell why it was floundering; then the diver picked it up. The tiny fish had been caught in a plastic bag, a small sandwich-type bag, which had a hole in it. The diver worked until the fish was finally free and swam away.
Sea and land animals being the victims of climate change is nothing new. It’s something I come across in research all the time but the sight just wouldn’t leave me alone of this tiny fish stuck in that plastic bag. I started thinking about who littered that bag.
Was it someone who had a picnic at the beach and just let a piece of plastic go? Maybe they even attempted to throw it in the beach garbage can but just missed and thought, “It’s okay – someone else will pick it up.” Was it someone who threw it away in the city and it traveled to the ocean after a storm?
Grabbing your trash to dispose of it and letting just one piece get away is something that happens to everyone. There is no evil intent behind it but still – that small act has consequences.
I think the way climate change is dealt with now is more in big terms like floods, fires and extreme temperatures. We deal with it as a big event because for us that is what it has become; however, scientists, and those who believed for years in the science of climate change, this human-caused change is not an overnight revelation. It’s like every time you watch “Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark;” you know that giant stone is going to roll toward him. The first time your heart races, especially when Indy stumbles … oh my gosh … but then, after possibly the hundredth time of seeing it, your heart rate stays normal. You know this big thing is coming but you also know he will get away; maybe not with the treasure but he will survive. I think for many of us who trusted the science, climate change at first was a heart-racing fear. We saw that stone coming toward us and we stumbled a lot but now as we approach the effects somehow it has become normalized. I have even heard some say, “Well it’s going to happen anyway. Not our fault, other countries pollute much more than we are so let them take care of it.”
Those comments used to drive me crazy; however, lately it’s been more like, “Oh well, there’s nothing that will change that guy’s mind so just move on.”
And then this tiny fish gets stuck in a plastic bag.
What happened to this small creature is the real threat of human-caused climate change. It is the real consequences of what our actions are doing to the world’s environment. The arguments “There is nothing we can do” or “It’s someone else’s problem” just don’t work here. One of us dropped that plastic bag that found its way to the sea; it wasn’t a country or a superpower, it was a human. A human caused this piece of plastic to be in the ocean but, here’s the hope, it was a human who found the trapped small fish and saved it. People can actually make a difference and it doesn’t take a lot of effort. In fact, all you have to do is get that plastic before it gets into the water – like joining a beach cleanup. Beach cleanups really do make a difference. Now it is true one of the best ways to keep plastics out of the ocean is to reduce the use and manufacturing of plastics; however, that is the bigger picture. The smaller one, the sand-roots effort if you will (get it – not grass roots but … okay) is to stop the plastic on the beach from entering the ocean and the way to do that is to pick it up. There are many beach clean ups throughout the year or you can just go to a beach with some trash grabbers and do it yourself. And you don’t have to go to the beach – take a trash grabber and bag with you when you’re hiking our mountain trails and pick up the litter. It may be small acts but aren’t we supposed to be the stewards of the Earth? Bringing it back to Thanksgiving, shouldn’t we be thankful that there are ways we can help our planet?
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and take time over the holiday to walk through nature or just look at the sky and trees and be thankful for the natural life around you.
According to David Sweets, meteorologist at NOAA, Thanksgiving Day will have highs in the 70s with no winds or rain in the forecast as of Monday. The winds we have been experiencing have been out of the northwest but now shifted to the northeast, which doesn’t affect our area as much. Thursday and Friday looks to be partly cloudy in the mornings leading to sunny afternoons.
You can find beach cleanups by searching non-profit environmental organizations like healthebay.org, surfrider.org and bleuworld.org.