Better or Worse

Published December 03, 2018

When I was the administrator of a retirement condominium, one of my favorite people was Robert Hughes, president of the condominium board. He served as a Marine in the Pacific during WWII, suffering through some of the most horrible human-created tragedies imaginable. After the war was over, he married, started a family, and taught history in Lincoln Public Schools until retirement. When discussing a high-level problem or challenge, Mr. Hughes would often say, “Well, some things get better and some things get worse.”

I was resistant to that idea. It was my belief that collectively we would respond to our better angels, recognize problems, and take action so that things wouldn’t have to get worse. Over time, Mr. Hughes’ words have resonated with me. The worsening effects of climate change, plastics pollution in the oceans, groundwater contamination, extreme weather events, wars and refugees of violence are but some of the tragedies of our time.

It seems to me our first task is to determine where we hold the power and control to make change, whether as an individual, a group, or a community. Well-meaning people often don’t realize how much power they have. But there is ample evidence that many people do and they are acting on it.

Some examples: There is a growing number of large retailers that have responded to pressure to eliminate toxic chemicals from their packaging and products. They have been ranked and analyzed by an organization called Mind the Store. Domestic paper mills are springing up to fill the gap that China left open through their recovered materials ban. Back home in Nebraska, better materials management systems are being instituted by cities, such as Pay As You Throw in Bellevue, and the landfill cardboard ban in Lincoln. And NRC was pleased to have a great response to our online pledge for individuals to reduce single use plastics.

All challenges pose opportunities for change. At the end of 2018, let us resolve to find our power, link arms, and tip the scales a wee bit toward “better”.

Very best wishes,

P.S. The ranks of NRC members are growing! Keep your eyes peeled for the 2019 membership renewal letter coming soon.