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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

From Normal to New Normal

Mar 31, 2022 03:31PM ● By Joe Dunne

I have been writing publisher letters every month for 12 years. It is always exhausting when I wait till the last day to get started, but here I am again. I find myself not remembering if or how much I have written on change, life, gratitude, etc., and this always presents a challenge in being creative. This time will be no different. Yet, in some ways, it works for me. 

   Today I have been pondering Earth Day and the impact our thinking and decision-making has on our lives and on this planet. These important issues have measurable consequences that affect us all and the generations of children that will follow. 

Several years ago, I wrote a piece about plastics. The spark came from walks in Breezy Point, New York, during low tide. Pens, cups, bags, containers, gallon milk jugs, and every other conceivable plastic product was scattered along the beach. Unrecognizable objects sitting in tar, seaweed and ocean straw seemed to be asking to be picked up and cleaned up. It almost looked like the environment was crying. That was 30+ years ago. We have come a long way since then; however, there is still much left to address. What can we do? As always, personal responsibility is the starting point. For me, volunteering to clean a river, walk a beach, get involved in our communities, spread awareness is a good place to start. Getting involved making a difference feels right to me. 

Another impactful moment happened when I was 23 and living in Chicago. In those days, smoking was normal. We smoked everywhere—restaurants, buses, cars, theaters, on the plane—and we littered. Discarding stuff and emptying car ash trays in a parking lot or on the sidewalk was common until the signs and fines for littering started to appear. Television commercials promoted the idea that we all share a common space, so we all need to take care of it a little better. This was pointed out to me directly during a walk on Michigan Avenue in Chicago one bright sunny day. As I was strolling along without a worry in the world, I tossed the core of an apple into the street near the curb without thinking. Within a minute, someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I lived here in the city. “No,” I replied, “I do not.” “Well, I do,” he said, “and this is like my living room. Would you throw your trash in your living room?” I did not know what to do or say. He looked at me, kind of shrugged his shoulders, and turned, depositing the apple core in a trash collection bin right next to us. As you can see, I have never forgotten that teaching moment. It has shaped my thinking and decision-making ever since. 

We have come a long, long way, but awareness, personal responsibility and actions are still in front of us. There is much to do to clean up living rooms and our houses. Our Earth, our responsibilities, to be good stewards should be part of our norm. 

As a side note, cigarettes thrown in the streets are still litter. And now, discarded masks are everywhere. Please, let’s not make this our new norm. 

If we want to spread something around, let it be peace. Unlike litter, spreading peace around, talking about it, praying for it, living it, thinking it, believing in it, would be a great New Normal. 

Pray for Peace, 

Asta & Joe Dunne, Publishers