It’s Earth Day! Thoughts Gleaned from Squalor and Hoarding.

Compulsive hoarding, and the squalor that comes with it, often rides in tandem with a lack of self-respect or awareness. If you had a healthy self-worth, would you live, eat, sleep, and make love in these conditions?

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Sorry if this is somewhat graphic, but think about the most basic things you take for granted every day. Can you imagine doing them within such a context? For example, as a child I slept among hundreds of bird droppings that were trapped between my sheets. Months went by, and I still failed to wash them… I think we can agree that this is absolutely repulsive.

And yet, for some reason we aren’t able to come together as a society to agree on basic principles for good housekeeping of our planet. The following pictures should stir strong visceral feelings that are every bit as repulsive as the various scenes I have occasionally shown here from my childhood home. I mean, obviously we all live here. Is this acceptable? Would you want to live amidst garbage and hazardous debris? Do you love your neighbor? This is why I’m happy to finally admit that I am an environmentalist, and a Christian environmentalist at that.

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That last picture is of the Cuyahoga River burning in 1969. We’ve made progress since then, but it has often only been the “radical environmentalists” pushing for real change. I wonder where we would be today if it weren’t for them. Surely none of us find these images to be acceptable, right?

Therefore, lets love our home. It’s ok to say that. Rather than having an attitude of, “Ah, to Hell with it,” as we carelessly flick cigarette butts onto the land wherever we find ourselves standing (as an animal defecates wherever it happens to be at the moment when nature calls), lets be aware of our surroundings. I find that people who spend time outside care about the environment. Those who spend most of their days indoors under the influence of climate control tend not to.

Here in Duluth, Minnesota, I find it relatively easy to be aware. I eschew the automobile, whenever possible, for personal reasons. Sure, it’s good for the environment, but I think I benefit the most by biking and walking to most destinations. Here is my bike. I bought it 25 years ago, and it is the very same Trek 1200 given special prominence in chapter 12 of my recently published memoir, The Emancipation of a Buried Man. I recently purchased the cargo trailer behind it (likely an impulsive pre-midlife crisis decision), and in the background you can see the very head of the Great Lakes. This is the easternmost point of Lake Superior, and our port is the furthest inland freshwater seaport in the world. We are connected to the entire planet through ships that travel here the world over. This is also some of the cleanest water you’ll ever hope to find, and the largest repository of freshwater anywhere. You’re looking at 10% of all the world’s fresh surface water. Amazing. Traveling to and fro within feet of such a wonder helps me to be aware. Thus, I think the greatest challenge I leave with you today is not for any specific environmental action, but rather that you live with greater awareness. The results and actions will then take care of themselves…


Here in Duluth we have a reputation of being a little “radical” with respect to the environment. Maybe that’s because we tend to actually be out in it, appreciating our natural assets, raising our children in it, etc… We drink this water. It is absorbed into every fiber of our being, literally. Obviously we choose to protect this water, the air, trees, food supply, etc. It’s only common sense. Cheers!

Finally, I need to share this amazing review of my book from a book blogger in England. It’s fantastic:

The book is also being featured by Ed Newman in his popular blog today:

2 thoughts on “It’s Earth Day! Thoughts Gleaned from Squalor and Hoarding.

  1. What a great post my friend. I have to say awareness is key. I would love to here more about ways to achieve greater awareness. What can people do in a practical sense to start this journey? Awesome post – I love the Trek 1200 – a classic they don’t make em like they used to bike!

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