That was the magic number teachers could use to allow for a full retirement with benefits from the state. It was determined by adding age and years employed in education.
As an Indian Counselor for the Miami School District, with a position I loved that never felt was work, retiring was a topic of discussion but not one of great interest to me. But the same year the Twin Towers came down, an incident at the high school occurred that changed my thinking. My office was set in the hallway with thick opaque glass open-less windows covered with burgundy calico curtains to protect the identity of the students who might be in counseling.
One day during passing period, there was a crash, breaking that what had been thought to be unbreakable making a sound like a powerful gunshot, showering the student with the curtain that served to protect the student from direct exposure to the glass shards as I hit the carpet. There had been school shootings even back in those days, but that is what it must feel like to those who suddenly taste fear in an actual deadly event. I got up opening the door to discover a student had merely been slammed into the window during the rush to classes. No guns, no mass shooting, thankfully. But it was the moment that changed my thinking and adding age and years of service added up equaled 80 and later that spring, my resignation went in and I went out. 80 and out is long gone now and the magic shifted to 90 and out making retirement a longer reward for years of service.
The shift I made was to focus more directly on what citizens might do to advocate for a cleaner and healthier environment and this too has never felt like work either. We have numerous issues that need addressing both locally for sure but also on the wider-world we all hope to protect.
In a community with a neighborhood full of good people who sleep deeply, while lying beneath them is a perched aquifer as Oklahoma’s Department of Environmental Quality defines it of benzene, a legacy chemical used in the building of the tires and for the cleanup of the workers each day for decades, at the renown BF Goodrich Tire manufacturing plant nearby. Tires made there made Miami thrive, paychecks were spent downtown and money made family life the iconic one seen on TV during those days.
Tires were the symbol of the economy here. While in Commerce, OK our neighbor, tires were stacked in the late 90’s over one hundred thousand of them sat scattered on a property catty-cornered from what the locals called the Green Hole and the Red Hole, both sink holes located near the Commerce High School. A fire started among the tires and the owner had trouble putting it out. He was receiving fines daily for not removing the tires. Through a phone call with the DEQ he got permission to put all of them into the Green Hole and that’s what he did. But they wouldn’t sink right away, but eventually did.
What we know about tires is they are about 19 percent natural rubber and 24 percent synthetic rubber, which is a plastic polymer, with the rest made from metal and other compounds. Modern car tires require about 7 gallons of oil to be made and truck tires can take up to 22 gallons of oil.
Tires wear out, like the 100,000 tires showcased earlier. As you drive, rubber wears, and tiny bits of the tire are ending up in oceans. “Tires,” says Joao Sousa, who studies marine plastics at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, “rank really high in terms of contribution” to the microplastics problem. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, estimated that tires account for as much as 10 percent of overall microplastic waste in the world’s oceans. A 2017 report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature put that number at 28 percent.
Research has found that passenger light truck tires lost nearly 2.5 pounds of rubber during the average life of 6.33 years. I’ve driven these type trucks for years and contributed my share to these numbers.
Another study found Americans produce the most tire wear per capita and estimates that, overall, tires in the U.S. alone produce about 1.8 million tons of microplastics each year. Tires are actually among the most common plastic polluters on earth.
Once these particles are in water, marine life eats them, and end up for example in shrimp guts. And we eat the shrimp. Keeping the cycle of reuse going.
All this information puzzled me because so many people I know want to do the right thing and recycle everything, and give it another life. But each time whether it is tires in the playground, or tires cut apart to be swings, all will continue to deteriorate and slough off more microplastics into our environment and after big rains like last night, won’t more of them make their way to the oceans?
All that to say – I won’t be reusing tires; they will earn the right to retire.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim