There are no Hallmark cards for Earth Day. At least, I don’t think there are. (It sounded authoritative, so I went with it.) Even so, it would be a good day to sit back and reflect a bit, maybe take stock of the health of the planet, if we had the time. We could learn from what we’ve been able to accomplish and learn to not be afraid of what still seems so impossible, or at least unlikely, given the epileptic political and economic systems we’ve given ourselves. It isn’t likely that many people consider these topics on Earth Day – or any other day, for that matter – but it might not be a bad idea.
In 1969, there was a massive oil spill originating from an oil platform off the Santa Barbara coast. The images of slicks and fouled birds led Senator Gaylord Nelson to declare April 20, 1970, the first Earth Day. It’s been getting bigger every year and good things have come from the efforts of Senator Nelson and those who have followed, the many others who have spoken for the planet. Back in 1970, there were rivers catching on fire, freelance toxic dumping and lead in just about everything. Every year has seen progress, every inch of it made against the protestations of the loud and ill-informed, the greedy and the blind. (You know who you are.)
Even as the individual environmental successes have progressed, however, the larger picture has gotten more problematic. We know more now. We have more data. We’re watching the polar ice cap melt in real time via satellite, we are presiding over the demise of rainforest and coral reef alike and we have names for all the orca. Our world has gotten smaller in some ways, certainly with respect to the species that still call it home. We know so much about all the little things, but somehow our focus seems unable to rest on the larger truth: we have already made irreversible changes to the climate of the Earth. It has changed, is changing, because of all 7.1 billion of us and whatever the environment is going to become – even if we suddenly reverse course and start to live more responsibly – it will never again be the way that it once was.
That’s a fact, and we own it. What are we going to do about it?
Happy Earth Day