Leaving behind a dubious legacy

It’s fall again—autumn if you want to wax poetic.
And think about it for a minute, what would autumn be without leaves?
Oaks, maples, aspens, cottonwoods, green ash trees. Blanketing the countryside with colour.
It’s because of autumn leaves that we think nostalgically and longingly of New England, the Ozarks, and the Colorado Rockies in these few months before winter sets in.
But like so much that is beautiful in life, the exciting autumn colours are transitory. Almost momentary.
I remember years ago trying to preserve their beauty. Taking the most beautiful red maple leaf I could find and pressing it between the pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
It seemed like a good use for a hard-to-read series of books. And then years later, when looking up a certain topic, the dried and beautiful-pressed maple leaf would come crumbling out.
Better yet was pressing the beautiful leaf between two sheets of waxed paper with an iron. The leaf was preserved instantly and stayed that way.
It could be used as a decoration around autumn-coloured candles on the Sunday table.
But now. . . . Actually, I hate to think what will happen to some autumn leaves this fall.
Much progress has been made in recycling, with most cities providing recycling services. Many also provide composting locations for leaves and yard waste.
All of us understand that our planet will survive only if we work together to make it happen. But still there are places where, some beautiful autumn day when most of the leaves are gone from the trees, city streets will be lined with black plastic bags filled with leaves.
The leaves are in the way, we say. They clutter the yard, blow up against hedges, and impose on our neighbours.
Those statements are all true. But think of the alternative.
Environmentalists tell us that leaves in black plastic bags survive in landfills for 500 years. And 500 years is a long time in a world where landfill space is at a premium.
It’s unnatural somehow to have those beautiful leaves end up being a burden on our children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children’s children.
Actually, it takes many more generations than that to get to 500 years. And if they all put their leaves in the dump with ours, just imagine being alive in the year 2514.
Thinking about this scenario is enough to make us search for alternate ways to deal with our autumn leaves. How about composting or mowing over them several times with the lawn mower.
It’s our duty, actually. For autumn leaves, preserved in black plastic, are a dubious legacy to leave for those who follow us.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@cox.net

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