I don’t want to sound too exasperated when I say ….another earth day …but really, what of it? Time to again acknowledge we are not taking care of our home, planet Earth, as we should? Haven’t we been talking about many issues with little to no action?
I remember April 22, 1970, when Earth Day’s founder Gaylord Nelson said, “Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all living creatures.” That was interesting as he was concerned about the environment along with poverty, hunger and urban blight. He like the rest of us, about 10% of the US population, was seeing the detrimental effects of DDT on our declining bald eagle population, news reports of a polluted river in Ohio catching fire and an oil rig leaking off the coast of Santa Barbara. I was studying organophosphates in college. For a short time we had a recognition of the balance needed in our water, air, land, plants and animals then and for future generations.
Sure there had been discussion of electric cars … in the 1800’s there were electric vehicles, but not till the 1970’s when gas prices soared and we were rationing and buying our gas on an odd or even day, did the idea seem to kick up again. Finally in June 2009 we have the first 500 vehicles using cutting edge battery technology and electric powertrain in Tesla’s cars.
Talk of solar power happened. June 1979, thirty-two solar panels were installed on the West Wing roof of the White House per President Carter’s acknowledgement of renewable energy. The panels were removed in 1986 and funding for renewable energy research was slashed in 1981 per President Reagan. President George W. Bush had the first solar electric system providing electricity and hot water on White House property. President Obama, in 2010, signed a bill to increase efforts in renewable energy and to make federal buildings energy efficient.
Many of us by the first Earth Day had read Rachel Carson’s 1962 book titled, “Silent Spring”. She had already documented the effects of DDT on marine life and was now sounding the alarm on how bird populations were declining due to their ingestion of the pesticide and the resulting thin-shelled eggs that broke prematurely in the nest. DDT was banned in 1972. At the same time I was in college studying organophosphates, a common pesticide used in commercial agriculture. It was not till 2001 when the Environmental Protection Agency banned its residential use. (Commercially still used, thus people are now looking more seriously at ingesting specific organic products to target avoidance of organophosphates since we cannot avoid them totally.)
In reality, every day should be “Earth Day”. Political leaders should consult with and understand the science to know how to have best practices when dealing with water sources, waste disposal sites, air quality, and the importance of grasslands, riparian areas, oceans, and all that is needed for healthy plant and animal life, which does include humans! Profit cannot be the determiner in any future decision-making, but instead the welfare of our people now and tomorrow is what is most important.
So, 51 years later we celebrate another Earth Day. More young people are angry and speaking their concerns, wanting to have a healthy Earth, a healthy home and a long and healthy life. Proactive efforts and actions are wanted, not reactive and remediating ones once something goes wrong. We are smarter than that! The science is here. Do we have the tenacity and will to speak out, take action, and support the entities that are working for the betterment of us all? I hope so even if it may mean not supporting a business we once did. Corporations need to understand that we the people do not make the profit. We the people want a healthy Earth. When their business can employ healthy environmental practices, then the consumer will be with them. We are all in on this together and we need to act together for the betterment of us all. There is only this planet available for us to live on; let’s respect it!
I love this Rachel Carson quote, “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonder and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” For sure, I hope.