I’m writing on Earth Day, the 22nd day of April. This is what in days of yore we called Arbour Day, being Canadians. in the States it was known as Arbor Day, someone, maybe Ben Franklin, having sensibly dropped the ‘U’ of the Queen’s English.

On Arbour Day at S.S. no. 17 Bayham we brought our rakes to school and cleaned up the leaves and sticks that had fallen from the trees in and around the yard. they were maple leaves. I suppose it was those trees that inspired our ancestors to call the neighbourhood Maple Grove.

We burned the leaves in great bonfires in those days. It never crossed our minds that a day would come when people could be fined for polluting the air and probably affecting the climate of the planet.

It being Arbour Day we planted a few trees along the fences of the yard or in open areas that wouldn’t shade our school garden or the playground.

Since many hands soon took care of the yard work, we picked up our lunches and our fishing poles and headed across the fields to the Big Otter Creek to angle for mullet, horned dace and rock bass. one teacher was trusted to keep us from falling into the creek which was much wider and deeper than it is today. It wasn’t due to more rain then, but to the shade along the valleys that kept the water from evaporating, and to the wetlands not yet ditched and tiled to send the water speeding to the river. A series of dams helped, too, until a great flood in 1937 washed all of them away except at Rocks Mill and Otterville.

Today a teacher would have to recruit adults for such a venture what with legal liabilities and all. Then the older kids baited the hooks for the little ones and got their hooks unsnagged from debris that collected in the deep holes where the fish would be hiding.

As more people left the rural communities to set up housekeeping in the cities the interest in maintaining forest cover waned. At the same time manufacturers of most goods began packaging products to attract the eye of buyers, and for hygienic reasons, and later to dispense fast foods faster. This created a new species of homo sapiens, homo litterbuggus.

Naturally this untidy horde offended the sense of homo neatus. Groups such as the Telephone Pioneers were formed to scour the shoulders and ditches of the land. You can see along Plank Road between new England and Port Burwell that the retired folk from Amtelecom who were those pioneers have passed away. Litter abounds. Amtelcom has been taken over by EastLink whose head office is somewhere beyond the borders of Ontario and so the sense of community is missing.

Earth Day is observed in urban areas but on watching the antics of disgruntled students in Montreal it occurs to me it’s time for a shift in emphasis for Earth Day.

It isn’t only students who are affected with the violence virus that is turning cities into scenes too much like the ones springing from the imagination of Margaret Attwood in her novels of the future. the Occupy Wall Street movement sweeps up homo disatisfactus of all ages who turn parks and squares into hobo jungles. probably the students have simply copied the behaviours of their elders. and the elders have adopted the tactics of the Arab Spring.

The Arabs have legitimate reasons to attack their governing masters. It is pure folly to trash a nation that has enjoyed the greatest freedom in history.

Some how we ought to develop programs and strategies to teach our citizens to pursue their goals in ways that do not resort to public bullying by mobs. Otherwise the efforts to curb bullying in schools, playgrounds and other haunts of youth are doomed to failure. We know from experience "do as I say, not as I do," just doesn’t work.

Some dreamers urge the adoption of direct democracy as a fairer system than politics as formed by great thinkers of the past.

Do we expect those who riot to influence lawmakers to make reasoned decisions in a direct democracy? Dream on!


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