Earth Day

A student committee asked if I’d host discussions in the art room. I was in the room practically all day anyway; it was my senior year and I spent all of my free periods working on art projects. I could wing any discussion, I figured, since discussion was easy. Trash, air pollution, industrial run-off, Pottstown had it all: It was great material. But when the day came, Earth Day 1970, no one talked. None of my fellow students had an opinion. I stuttered and stammered through the first class, filling the silence with my voice, and as the class filed out, the art teacher strolled past and muttered, “Better get your head out of your rear, Stong, and come up with something quick.” Yeah. Got it. Bob Kingsley with sound advice. He was probably the best teacher I ever had. Too bad it was for an elective my senior year of high school.

As the next class walked in, already bored having spent their last period talking about “ecology,” I was blank. Should I focus on ecologically sound art materials? Probably; but how boring would that be? How likely was it that any of these folks would go in to the Arts? In frustration, I started tossing out opinions, but even I was bored. The second class moved on and the third period started. Good grief did this suck.

“Look,” I said, “So we pollute. What’s the big deal? There are a lot of people. They’ll pollute until people die and there aren’t enough people to pollute any more.” Bingo. Reaction and discussion. Not much, just a bit; but there was discussion. Some of the students actually took strong issue with what I said.

“If we change nature’s balance won’t nature just adjust? re-balance on its own? So some weak species disappear and some sick people die, won’t we be stronger for it?” Could I call it performance art? Not really; performance, certainly, but art? Hardly. It’s difficult being artistic while you pull your head out of your rear. I did create a moment for myself, though; a point, like a seed crystal, for memories to gather.

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