Buried Treasure

By Jeanethe Falvey

I remember my mom telling me about a jar of pennies she buried as a child. Every visit to that house in Long Island I would consider excavating beneath my grandparents’ porch, but grabbed my pail and shovel to find other intriguing things on the beach instead. It was tempting though. Very tempting.

As a little kid even old pennies are exciting. OK, some of us don’t outgrow this, but there’s some allure from the fact that they were put there long ago.

I always wanted to bury a time capsule. The boxes under my bed do not count. Nor do the Playschool people that I lost in my sandbox and never recovered.

Years ago I thought it would be fun to do and then dig up later with my children, if I was lucky enough for all of those details to work out.

Then I thought, just as well to let someone else find it. Considering I missed the opportunity to have hidden anything of substance as a kid (newspaper clippings, CD – er cassette – of popular music, maybe a photograph) plan B seems more likely. The expressions on my housemates’ faces when they find me digging in the backyard would certainly be worth it.

A little over a year ago, through the help of social media and a few colleagues at the National Archives, I came upon a huge, unexpected time capsule. Documerica stirred my childhood aspirations and more recent memories of studying the social, political and economic issues surrounding some of the largest environmental challenges of the past 50 years.

It was all right there. Photos of new catalytic converters, polluted drinking water, thick black smoke, people going about their everyday business, tires on beaches; brings to mind that Billie Joel song.

I was speechless. It was like going from black and white TV to color. Facial expressions brought those debates to life. No longer were images of the environment back then, left up to the imagination.

What will our Documerica look like? What are the challenges we face today, after 40 years of better environmental protection? What do our faces look like as we go about our lives; enjoying, struggling, or remaining unaware of the State of our Environment?

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey, US. EPA Office of External Affairs. Pick 5 and State of the Environment project lead, based in rainy Boston, Massachusetts.

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