Look to bears for lessons about wise stewardship

My dryer broke on Earth Day. No kidding, like a message from the planet to stop wasting precious resources, my dryer up and quit. I am a mother of three young, wild, nature-loving, mud-dipping children and this means heaps of laundry. I also am a polar bear guide and this means deep awareness of the affects of climate change. 

So, on Earth Day I found myself grumpy, contemplative and walking to the store to buy some clothespins. We hung a line, slapped the clothes free of wrinkles and pinned them up to let nature help with the chores. 

Much to my surprise, the chore became easier. 

A natural rhythm was forced upon our laundry routine. Rather than gigantic dried loads of clothing piling up on the clean side and slowly morphing into dirty laundry just because I couldn’t find the time to wrestle them into submission, I found neatly hung practically ironed shirts and jeans drying at a reasonable rate that I could keep up with. In short, I like not having a dryer. 

We do live in Alaska and wet times are common place so we did order a replacement piece and my husband fixed the dryer. Since then, I have slipped back into my quick-dry habits. The pile is growing and I am wondering why it is so hard to break this cycle. 

This dryer-using habit represents many choices I make. I jump in the car all too quickly. I forget my reusable bags. I know the consequences, have watched the polar bears struggle and still find it hard to always make the right choice. 

This feeling of not being able to always get it right reminds me of another area in my life — mothering. I am certain I am not the only mother struggling with making the right choices for and with my kids.  How do we teach our children wise stewardship of resources? How do we make sure there is a healthy planet for them to make a home? 

Perhaps there is something to learn from the animals I love to watch. They are the ultimate conservationists. Polar bears don’t hibernate like the brown bears they evolved from. They go in and out of hibernation, in and out of conserving their energy as needed. 

Maybe this approach is more realistic for me, too. Maybe I should dry like a polar bear. When it is sunny and windy, hang the line and pin the clothes. When the rains come, give myself a break and use the dryer. 

If we all did this, learned from the bears, sought balance, we would be able to teach our children wise stewardship, to go easy on ourselves for not being perfect, and ensure a healthier planet for them to make a home. 

Today is sunny. Clothes will hang, while I go play in the mud with my kids and enjoy this gorgeous planet of ours. Each time I make a choice for the polar bears, I make a choice for my kids, too. 

Andrea Van Dinther has lived in Homer for nine years. She is a free-lance writer, polar bear guide and mother of three.