Saving the World, one Broken Stick at a Time

By Oscar Barajas, NewsTaco

I am the last person in the world you would expect to save the world. As a kid, I would go to the backyard and light Styrofoam on fire and dance around it, like a pagan, so it was a bit of a shock when I joined the Ecology Club in high school. At first I joined it because it provided shelter inside the main building away from rainy days. However, I realized that the girls heavily outnumbered the boys, and this was the only forum where girls would actually care for what I had to say.

The club advisor was a mousy science teacher named Mr. Rowland. He would call the meetings to order and then read off the minutes from previous meetings. I sat in the back eating my lunch, observing the room. The room was filled with a lot of good people. It seemed that only the gothic students, students looking to beef up their college applications and people like me who just needed some guidance. This seemed like the best place to do it because there were so many social outcasts.

It seemed like we were always fundraising. The goal was to buy an acre of the Amazon Rain Forest, so that the loggers could never get to it. In retrospect, I did not know what that meant back then, let alone now. Even if we ended up raising the money, there was no guarantee that the loggers would respect our rights as sophomore and senior landowners. I never really knew how we would pull it off, considering that Americans are not allowed to own land in Mexico. Brazil seemed to be out of the question. One of the things that we did was sell overglorified Gummy Words called “Earth Worms.” My poor friend Susan Romero must have sold hundreds of bags. They did not trust me selling them because they knew I would eat my merchandise without returning the profits. They were right. After all, I cannot even think of how many bags of worms Susan fronted me. I think she is still waiting for me to pay her for them.

But it was not all about raising money for impossible causes. We were better off adopting stars and naming them after Robert Smith songs. There were a couple of Saturday morning clean-up projects at local parks. We never made it out to the beaches. I hated those days because Saturday morning was far more sacred than even Sunday. I treated the whole ordeal like it was court ordered community service. I dragged my feet and would resort to simply holding the trash bag after claiming that the nail at the end of my stick was not sharp enough to stick through anything. My utter laziness would usually coincide with Mr. Rowland telling us to inform him in case we got stuck with a syringe.

The high school band played on as we continued to clean up and the California heat would catch up around noon. I remember hating every last member of the band. They should have been down there with us holding those useless sticks instead of playing the theme song to the 1960’s Batman television show. Picking up people’s garbage did not make me feel like a superhero – not even like the junior varsity Super Friends like Hawkman, Green Arrow or Giant Apache.

In the end, I felt like people like Susan had their heart in the right place. People like her end up leaving bigger footprints despite the effort to displace her carbon footprints. Unfortunately she had people like me eating her Earth Worms right out of her backpack and blaming it on leprechauns and Mr. Rowland.

[Photo by  Dolores Park Works]

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