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Opinion: Treat the Earth as you would your yard
(Daniel Helpiansky/Unsplash)

“Please Be Considerate” signs are popping up all over my neighborhood, particularly in the meticulously manicured yards that surround fine homes. The signs are aimed at people who have been allowing their dogs to poop in these yards and failing to clean up after them.

We have a long, deep and complex relationship with our yards. Many of us see in them an affirmation of our values, a reflection of our roots and a projection of our identity. Our house is our castle, our yard, our domain. Here we are sovereign. Dog poop is an affront.

Yet when we look for those who would violate the integrity of a neighbor’s property, we find ourselves. Whatever our rationalization, our behavior is inconsiderate. Quite possibly, many of us are ignorant of the potential harm that results from our failure to clean up. According to the website Doody Calls, pet waste can infect humans with diseases and parasites. Furthermore, dog waste attracts rats which bring more disease. And if that weren’t enough, the waste eventually breaks down and washes into and pollutes our water supply.

Ironically, our meticulously maintained yards also contribute to our pollution problems. Pesticide and fertilizer runoff washes into our water supply, too. In addition, the gasoline-powered lawn equipment, particularly the two-cycle variety found in leaf blowers, significantly contributes to air pollution. According to Princeton University, “a consumer-grade leaf blower releases more hydrocarbons than a pickup truck.”

Just as we might look away as if distracted while our dog befouls our neighbor’s yard, so too might we choose to look away to avoid confronting the contradiction of our own lives. If we could learn to see the earth as a sponge into which our poisons are absorbed and out of which our sustenance is drawn, we might become more considerate of others, and less destructive of ourselves.

Brian E. Moss