2010 through a green lens

The days are getting longer, and we're about to enter another year.

If you believe in that sort of thing.

Personally, I'm not too fond of time or timekeepers. Sure, I use them and I understand their importance, especially in reporting. But even when reporting, I prefer to watch with my eyes instead of letting my watch be my eyes.

Minutes, hours, days and years are ways of referencing things, and they're useful. But there are also many other ways to make sense of time.

I often wear a pocket watch around my neck that I purposefully never set to the correct time. I like it because it's a reminder that watches don't create time. They merely record one aspect of it.

It's a reminder that paying attention to the time on a watch isn't as important as paying attention to the times around us.

One of Ashland's homeless residents gave me something to think about earlier this month, when I was interviewing him for a story on illegal camping in the city.

"What time do you usually start heading to your campsite?" I asked Joshua Scott, who is known on the street as Zero.

"Oh, about dark-thirty," he said. "There's only two times. Either it's light out, or it's dark out. That's all that matters."

I think even Scott would acknowledge that watches come in handy sometimes, especially, for example, if you're trying to make it to a 7 p.m. City Council meeting — which he successfully did.

But, watch or no watch, Scott's outlook on time is interesting.

I've been reading through what I've written since starting this column in March.

Sometimes this year, it seemed pretty dark out, even when it was daytime. There was the giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. There was more evidence of glaciers melting in Glacier National Park. There was the Oak Knoll fire in Ashland.

There were also times when the world seemed incredibly light. Southern Oregon University students donated to aid clean-up efforts in the Gulf. Volunteers organized the first zero-waste event in the Rogue Valley on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Residents helped the Oak Knoll victims begin rebuilding their homes.

Isn't that the way with all years? There are setbacks and there is progress.

Sometimes, we see the same setbacks, year after year. All we can hope for is to see people keep trying for progress.

The Earth, the scientists tell us, is getting taxed. There are so many of us using a limited amount of resources.

It may seem like one person can't make a difference, just as it may seem like one second won't change an hour or a year.

But we know a lot can happen in one second. We learned that when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and when the Oak Knoll fire engulfed 11 homes.

We know that one second can last for a lot longer in the minds of people and the memory of a nation.

In the same way, one environmental act can have a ripple effect in the community. Riding your bike to work might encourage others to get on their bikes. Buying locally grown produce helps enable a farmer to stay in the Rogue Valley and grow more crops that can feed us for another year.

"Either it's light out, or it's dark out," Scott says.

Well, it started staying lighter longer this week, after the winter solstice Tuesday. I'd like to think it's going to keep staying lighter longer in 2011. I don't expect the laws of the Earth to change, but I do expect the people on the Earth to change.

Time, it moves fast. But so can we.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or hguzik@dailytidings.com. For past columns see dailytidings.com/ecologic.

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