This is the first Earth Day I have made an effort to take part in its celebration. My regular readers may find this a bit odd given the topics about which I opine. As an educated environmental scientist not taking part in the annual April 22ndobservance in some capacity may well be seen as dipping a toe into the pool of heresy. Perhaps it is. But then again I tend to be Earth Day-ish everyday.
I am religious about recycling or I recycle religiously. Three rubbermaid bins sit out in the garage, mouths opened wide awaiting their individual meals of plastics, tins, aluminum, paper and cardboard. They find themselves overflowing, in need of attention twice as often as the garbage cans. I take it for granted and tend to become lost when I can’t recycle. On a return trip to Anchorage, Alaska for my thesis defense, a friend noticed my discombobulated expression at the university’s coffee counter, “What’s wrong?”
“Where’s the recycling bin?”
“Oh”, he chuckled a bit, “You’re not in California anymore.” and he pointed to the garbage can rapidly filling with recyclable coffee cups, stirrers and plastic lids. Now that was sacrilege!
I buy local, or regionally at least. Dairy products, artichokes, lettuce and orange juice from central California, apples and ice cream from Oregon. I favor a salsa made fresh from a local Mexican food restaurant sold in my regular grocery store. I shop the farmers’ markets throughout the spring, summer and fall. I avidly grow my own food. Successfully? No, but I’m blindly optimistic I’ll acquire my green thumb eventually. I use, almost exclusively, CFL light bulbs in my home. And when running errands I choose the most efficient route to cut down on emissions and, yes, to save me money. I even save my used motor oil for the next trip to the recycling center.
So do I need Earth Day? No, not really.
But do we, as a society, as a global community, still need Earth Day? Well, if I may lay out a few illustration…
Over the last few years we’ve heard a flurry of cries to rollback the majority of environmental regulations and even demands to dismantle the entire EPA. We’ve witnessed the hurling of maledictions upon the warnings of climate change and the prodigious growth of mistrust in the science intended to educate us all about it. The stalwart resistance to the transition to renewable energy sources has been astounding. And we’ve heard the rising siren call of Drill baby Drill!, even in the wake of Earth Day 2010’s Gulf oil spill disaster. How exactly was the irony of that one lost on so many? With the swell in religious overtones throughout this election season, how could the BP spill not be seen as a sign from above?
Initially begun as a national “teach-in” on environmental issues, Earth Day has expanded in various forms into a broad brush to promote awareness of environmental issues, appreciation for nature and to foster education of ecology. From organized beach cleanups to environmentally themed festivals to promoting community gardening to the South Bronx Fest’s first ever Recycling Olympics organizers continually re-imagine their events’ activities every year to churn up the public’s enthusiasm. Much of the focus is on the schools and students, exposing them to nature, a first time thing for many of them. It’s amazing what a bit of bare earth under one’s feet can do to entice an appreciation of the world in which we all live.
So is there still a need for Earth Day? Until a global paradigm shift occurs embracing sustainability then, yes there absolutely is, and will continue to be, a need for Earth Day.
An Eclectic Mix of Earth Day Events around the US:
Earth Ball 2012: An All-Species Masquerade April 21st Corvallis, Oregon
Earth Day at Sequoia Zoo April 22nd Eureka, California
Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival April 21-22nd Santa Barbara, California
Green Works Idaho Earth Day Celebration April 22nd Boise, Idaho
22nd Annual Celebrate the Earth Festival! April 22nd Albuquerque, New Mexico
Bellevue’s Earth Day Celebration April 22nd Bellevue, Nebraska
Earth Day Mobile Bay April 22nd Fairhope, Alabama
Earth Week 2012 April 22-27th Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Earth Day 4 the Kids Celebration April 22nd Falls Township, Pennsylvania
College of the Atlantic Earth Day Celebration April 22nd Bar Harbor, Maine