Leave only footprints ...

“Take only memories. Leave only footprints” … Chief Seattle

Chief Seattle, the Anglicized name of Si'ahl, was the revered leader of the Duwamish native American people from the Pacific Northwest. The city of Seattle was named after him, in fact. He is credited with the insightful quote above. It is doubtful he actually said these exact words … translations, transcriptions and history being what they are, but I think he probably believed these words. If you take the time to read his speech from 1854 (one of several versions of the same speech), you cannot help but be inspired … and feel guilty.

chief seattle


We personally are able to take more now … photos and sound bites along with memories … with no repercussions. We collect stones and shells sometimes, a sample of beach sand and even loose feathers once in awhile, but that's not what he was talking about. He was talking about using up resources, abusing the Earth and water and air that sustain us. He recognized even then that men would destroy and deplete in the name of sport, progress and profit.

Living on a sailboat, we think we have a smaller carbon footprint than most. We try to reuse and recycle. We don't dump non-biodegradable trash into the sea. We try to use wind and solar rather than depending upon diesel fuel or gasoline. Then, of course, we “fly” back to the USA on a jet, buy a car and a house and we join the madding crowd. It's hard when you're tooling along on the highway at 65 mph or letting the water run while brushing your teeth or running the A/C, to acknowledge how we waste shamefully and are completely oblivious to it. Modern man has done a good job of botching up Chief Seattle's world ... and ours.

We've been in places, Tristan da Cunha comes to mind, where people are acutely aware of sustainable resources. Too many animals on the island and there's not enough grazing area; too many plantings without rotation and the soil is depleted; too much fishing and lobstering and the fish and lobster are gone. They work hard there to maintain the delicate balance between man and nature.

Do you remember (if you're old enough to have been around in the 70s) the public service ad for the “Keep America Beautiful” campaign featuring a crying Indian, Iron Eyes Cody? Okay, so Iron Eyes Cody was really an Italian immigrant, but it got the point across in a not-so-subtle way.

I remember seeing a sign inside a bus in Ecuador, “Keep the bus clean. Throw your trash out the window.” It wasn't a joke, the bus driver was really keen on keeping his bus clean. We threw some trash into a waste basket in the front of the bus and he methodically emptied it by throwing the same trash out the window.

I look at the trash and rubble on the beautiful local beaches here and my eyes tear up … they really do. Plastic bottles and bags and garbage just strewn about as if it would disappear somehow or maybe someone else will clean it up. Maybe they just don't see it. In all fairness, I certainly remember throwing trash out the car window when we were young kids, encouraged by our parents to do so. Shame on us! It's a matter of education, awareness and pride perhaps, and an innate understanding of the role humans play in the complex web woven by nature and how we abuse our privileges.

I'm getting on my soapbox and waxing philosophical and I really don't mean to. This topic came up because today is Earth Day 2016 and it's a good time to reflect about how we live, how we waste and what we, as individuals, can do differently to preserve our world.

Happy Earth Day … Be kind to her, she's the only planet we've got.

Meme-chief seattle_Earth-Day 2016