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In this Friday. Dec. 13, 2019, file photo, Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg holds a sign with writing reading in Swedish, "School strike for the climate" as she attends a climate march, in Turin, Italy. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

We all understand the retail exhaustion of this season, but did the driver of a random car passing by have to toss his empty soda can onto my front lawn? And we all know that the cleaner upper isn't the driver, it's me. I'm reminded of a road sign featured online that asks the question, "Why are you littering?" We get several choices for an answer: 1) I'm a Jerk, 2) I don't care about anyone else, 3) Mommy still cleans up after me, and 4) All of the above. So when 16-year old Greta Thunberg became Time Magazine's Person of the Year, maybe Mommy Earth sent her kid with a message, one that's beyond seasonal.

Greta is annoying lots of folks. "Greta, go home & cuddle a teddy. I object to being patronized by a foreign teenager," is a British complaint on Twitter. Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro labeled Greta a "brat." You all know Trump's reaction. But I wish she'd come to my street and glare at the cars driving by. Maybe there'd be fewer water bottles, candy wrappers and beer cans on the ground. I fantasize about her when the driver of the car in front of me tosses his cigarette butt out his open window. Bored at the red light, he empties the entire ash tray onto the street before driving off.

Why does it take a teenage girl to make the case for stopping messes? Maybe it's the sense of entitlement that says don't inconvenience the consumer in us. That's one reason why the Tennessee General Assembly is passing a bill banning local governments from regulating certain plastic bags and utensils. Really? Americans annually dump 254 million tons of trash and enough office paper to construct a 12-foot-high wall from Los Angeles to Manhattan.

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Time via The Associated Press / This photo provided by Time magazine shows Greta Thunberg, who was named Time's youngest "person of the year" on Dec. 11, 2019. Thunberg was honored for work that transcends backgrounds and borders.

If trash doesn't change our entitlement mindset, consider radioactive waste. The Tennessean reports that 10 years ago, Murfreesboro residents protested successfully against state-approved dumping of low-level radioactive waste into a local landfill. But the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has now wiped data about low-level radioactive waste from its website saying it's confidential. To make matters worse, Trump's administration plans to reclassify high-level radioactive waste as low risk.

Cleaning up the mess is so inconvenient that this administration may cut $40 billion from cleanup budgets. Never mind that we're killing plants, animals, and fish. Or that soil is poisoned and can't grow crops. Or that the risk to our health is deadly.

No wonder Mom Earth is deploying her daughters to make us clean up our room. Greta stands alone on the Time magazine cover, but she's not alone. Michelle Obama publicly encouraged her to persevere. Actresses Sally Field and Jane Fonda were recently arrested for their climate protests. The Sierra Club's current president is a woman and its latest magazine issue is dedicated to women environmentalists worldwide.

Women like Joanne Stanton and Hope Grosse are creating grassroots organizations like the Buxmont Coalition for Safer Water, which pushes for cleanup near military bases of PFAS known as "forever chemicals." PFAS chemicals are linked to cancer and never degrade, but the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't require testing drinking water for them.

We need someone like Iceland's Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir as head of the EPA. She's asking governments to protect the environment and work toward global sustainability. Since this administration is in denial and balks, Mother Nature desperately needs our help. So let's add to our New Year's resolutions. Protest, vote and watch what you throw out your car window.

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Deborah Levine / Staff file photo by C.B. Schmelter

Contact Deborah Levine, an author, trainer/coach and editor of the American Diversity Report, at deborah@diversityreport.com.

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