A Merry, Merry Christmas to one and all. To loving people everywhere, to wonderous fauna and delightful flora, the beautiful fliers, and the deep-blue swimmers — may I send you heartfelt greetings for this lovely holiday season.

My column is dedicated, this week, to the many things we should gift the Earth for Christmas. It definitely deserves some kindness and love these days.

For many years, on my favorite television show, “Sunday Morning,” they would introduce a list of beautiful places in the United States being secured as “gifts we gave ourselves.” The gifts were places of beauty in nature. Each was so unique, exotic, and unusual and all saved as National Parks or preserves. I knew I would never get to see them in my lifetime, but I was really excited to know they were there, saved permanently.

For the past several years though there have been no wildlife areas or national gifts. Allotments and portions of these beautiful pieces of land have been regifted to large coal, oil and lumber companies. Our gifts taken away. I hope with all my heart that our national charms return to the rightful owner.

Clean air is on my list of gifts. I consider myself very lucky to live in Kansas where our blue sky is prevalent. Most of the time…. For several days, this past week, when the weather was beginning to change from warm to cold and back and forth, I noticed in the northern sky a long cocoa and slate-colored plume of smoke wavering up and down, holding close to the ground. At first I blamed it on several companies with nearby smoke stacks, but it was too far west to be either one.

Depending on the direction of the wind, the air pollution flow was propelled across the skyline. I was appalled and dismayed. It was a clear day in Kansas and our blue sky was stained an ugly color. We are lucky not to have the big city air problems. I am sympathetic to those individuals and animals having to live under the cast of dirty air.

A gift of clean eyes for Earth would be quite worthy. I wish I could give the gift of unpolluted, fresh, sparkling water to my friend Earth. When my husband and I go to Hillsdale Lake for our “warm weather walks” I really love seeing the water shimmer, the water fowl enjoying their dips into the water, and the calls of many splendid birds. My eyes then fall to the shoreline to see the trash left behind and it makes my blood boil.

Keeping our oceans and waterways clean is truly a people problem. When all people truly care and realize the responsibility is theirs for clean water will this gift come to fruition. We, as members of the Earth’s population, have islands of plastic waste, twice the size of Texas, floating in the Pacific Ocean.

It is my belief that since we don’t see it in our backyards, it is not our problem. Recycling spots and pick-up should be brought back to the whole state of Kansas. I know the subject has been a point of contention with Paola’s patrons. We could do far better with recycling.

Numerous years ago I was a rapper. Yes, a rapper. You probably didn’t know that of me. But I sang an original rap song about recycling and rapped to all elementary students in USD #368. I was “Recycle Mama,” singing and dancing about the importance of recycling. The district had just begun a project to recycle paper and boxes and cans and plastic.

As the years progressed the companies collecting the recyclables diminished, finding little money in continuing the process. I do know of glass recycling at the Price Choppers and plastic bag collections. But, the bazillion plastic bottles and containers are still out there floating around in no-where-land.

A gift I wish to give back to Earth is recouping and strengthening the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Throughout the past forty-seven years the Act’s endowment has been tested and changed and loosened to accommodate big businesses and super powers, much to the demise of endangered species who have no real voice until it is too late.

I worry about the creatures who must depend on us to protect their environment. I hope and pray for monarch butterflies that they make it to Mexico to find a living space and to make it back north again. And the diminished populations of whooping cranes… They need their own group chaperone to protect them. Elephants? Rhinos? Black-footed ferrets?

Please consider a garden, bird feeders, bird houses, watering pools, and other gifts you can give Earth for Christmas.

Beth Conner is a Miami County resident, teacher and outdoor enthusiast. She can be reached at bethconner2019@gmail.com.

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