Having grown up in rural Wisconsin during the Depression, my mother was acutely aware of how we used and more importantly, reused things.
“What’s all this about recycling? It’s nothing new; we always had to do that! It’s easy!”
She also impressed upon us the beauty of the world around us and instilled in us a respect and understanding of the connection between us and the earth.
I worked hard to do the same with my boys. They often rolled their eyes at me, as did their fathers, but I continued to nag about putting things in the right receptacle, being aware of what we eat, conserving water (extremely hard to get through the skull of endless-shower-takers) and remembering how everything we do affects the environment and, in turn, affects us.
The environmental movement can be said to have been born April 22, 1970 with the first officially declared Earth Day.
“The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California,” the Earth Day website says.
“Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda.
“Senator Nelson announced the idea for a ‘national teach-in on the environment’ to the national media; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican congressman, to serve as his co-chair; and recruited Denis Hayes from Harvard as national coordinator.
“Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land. April 22, falling between Spring Break and final exams, was selected as the date.” (http://bit.ly/1Qyy9kx)
This movement, this collaboration between young and old, people of all political parties, rich and poor, made possible the creation of the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.
The most basic building blocks of our existence are dependent on these tenets. We cannot live healthy lives without clean water and air. We can sustain life by chipping away at the biodiversity of life, be it frogs, eagles, wolves or mushrooms that give us cancer-fighting drugs. We are all connected — remove a link in the chain, and nothing holds.
This Earth Day, this Saturday, might I suggest you take time to assess your impact on the planet?
Some people say we can survive the catastrophic changes we are bringing upon ourselves by the use of technology. There are no facts remotely supporting that belief, currently. Besides, why would we want to live in a world devoid of the homey sound of crickets on a warm night, the calming smell of jasmine wafting on the breeze, or the thrill of spying a massive condor in flight?
Land-clearing for fast food production, degrading water sources and elimination of biodiversity are huge factors in our demise. Global warming is real. And it is up to us, us who have brought this about via our lifestyles and choices, to listen, look, learn and leap into action.
More than recycling aluminum cans (use glass, it recycles far more times), more than poo-pooing a compost bins (share with a neighbor if you belong to the mostly-clean-plate-club), more than using compact fluorescent bulbs, it is adopting a more conscious way of life, a more respectful perspective of our world and, therefore, ourselves.
Yes, our kids and our grandkids do, but we deserve clean water, clean air and a healthy natural balance. Jobs can be plentiful (this is the adaptation we must embrace, not necessarily just technology). There is hope. It’s up to us.
Happy Earth Day.