Reflections of an Observer, Part 2
2007-06-20 06:58:23.000 – Jon Cotton, Observer
Sometimes it’s near impossible to appreciate the sky portion of the world because the ground part sticks up so high. That’s not a bad thing, but it does create a sense of distance. A week of my vacation was spent in NYC. As a mountain dweller/outdoorsman/country boy I can say I had a blast. I meant to spend two nights and train back to the quieter land of upstate New York. Then I fell into an apartment sitting gig complete with dog walking duties. Open-ended plans allowed me to freeform my arrangements; besides I was helping out a friend. I flew a kite on Coney Island, ate fantastic ribs on the upper west side, watched a roller derby and met some movers and shakers in the online video aggregation world.
The city was a good time but I had to suspend my beliefs. For example, I believe every trashcan should be placed next to a recycling bin. The streets of Hamburg, Germany have quadcans – trash, aluminum, glass, plastic – for the common discarded items. Easy, simple and it requires no extra effort on the user/consumer. We could do this. I believe there is a responsibility to do this. I realize there are logistical complications to implementing recycling bins in the city. What about the industrial pollution impacting New England air quality. Something could be done about that. I didn’t let such things bother me on vacation and enjoyed what was offered. But I’m in a thinking mood and the nice thing about thoughts is they can lead to solutions. Or at least good ideas to share with others.
Now this comment is more tangential then normal, but have faith, I’m drawing linkages. The videobloggers I met are literally building a new paradigm of independent media distribution. This is change brought about by people with passion. There are other forums of the world that could use the same attention. Seeing a small pile of trash in Queens was mentally equivalent to a single discarded water bottle on the observation deck. Whether it was that pile of trash or simply the sheer volume of traffic, tall mountains or tall buildings, a person can get used to about anything.
Sometimes however it is worth paying attention to something outside the routine. Sometimes it is worth holding your beliefs and applying them to a thing that just shouldn’t be adopted as normal.
My last day in the city – I’m traversing down a sidewalk in the heart of Manhattan not far from my departing train. I see a girl my age. She says words I can’t decipher yet I turn my head as I come closer. She is selling. There is a binder with literature. I make the mistake a hardened New Yorker would never make. I realize I’m caught and too naively polite to turn away. I smile. I turn the sales pitch into a two way conversation. I know what she is talking about because I hawk the same issue with different words. She is not selling; she is upholding a cause. As we converse two shells crack, two humans become people. She says, “People spend so much money in this city on everything and don’t think twice. When it comes to this, no one even looks at us”. In my mind there is a past coworker that calculated every time he stepped out of his Manhattan apartment it cost him $20. In the last eight days I’ve dropped three weeks’ pay. She is right; I find that amount acceptable and worth it. How can I possibly be stingy about a Cause when I spent the same amount on a movie ticket and popcorn? I crouch down and fill out a form with a borrowed pen on a borrowed binder. I am content.
That is the tale of how Meghan got me to become a member of Greenpeace. I truly wonder how many others joined a Cause that day. I’m not hawking Greenpeace here, but by this point you know an appeal is coming. It is the nature such organizations; I somehow find myself as the messenger on the street. The Mount Washington Observatory is not a federal or state government function. We do receive grants, we do have some investments and contracts. Mostly, we are a member supported non-profit. You can join. It might not be in your routine to donate but it just might be worth it. Either way, I’m in a thinking mood and I believe I just shared some ideas.
Jon Cotton, Observer