Friday, April 21, 2017

How Far We Have Come - More Earth Day Thoughts

A friend brought up a good point about one thing I said in yesterday's post about Earth Day. I'll condense and paraphrase because I don't have a right to quote her without asking for permission and I'm running late. She expressed a bit of healthy cynicism about Earth Day, stating that it's a one hand/other hand issue. The increased awareness of the environment is good, but for many people it's just that single day and they return to their poor habits immediately thereafter.

Her comment made me think, since I've been involved with Earth Day since the very first one while I was in High School in Colorado. I thought back over my more than thirty years of celebrating and fighting for environmental awareness and causes, and remembered what the prevailing attitudes about the land that we lived in were like back in the early 1970's. It really wasn't that long ago to me, but I have a lot of friends who weren't even born then, so I guess it's been a while. 

Toxic water was becoming all too common with chemicals and pollutants
being added to the waters at an alarming rate. The awareness started by
Earth Day led to some serious cleanup of the waterways as well as
strengthened regulations about waste water disposal practices. 

What really hit me is that over the years, environmental causes and a focus on helping to save the environment has become a part of standard rhetoric and discussion. It's nothing for a municipality to publish their water testing results in their monthly newsletters and signing a community up for curb-side single container recycling has become commonplace (and oh, so nice!). The EPA was established and strengthened over the years, factories and other businesses were fined and forced to clean up their environmental damage, and toxic waste dumps were fenced off, analyzed, and in some cases cleaned up and repurposed. 

Businesses are often really poor at self-policing. They'll go for the
least expensive solution and the short-term fix. Those practices
can lead to long-term problems that can affect generations to come. 

None of this would have happened without that original Earth Day and the subsequent ones bringing the topic of the land around us into sharper focus. We're losing that focus now, with our new political administration, and I have to admit that I'm probably more afraid for the lasting effects of this poor decision on Mother Earth than many other aspects of the current President and Congress. 

I'm grateful that concern for the environment isn't as much a 'grass roots' and 'underground' lifestyle as it was when I was a kid. Environmental causes have shifted from the back pages in a bottom corner to being front page news. Talk about the future ramifications of environmental actions, project construction, and corporate decisions that impact the land, air and water is a standard topic for discussion. All of this comes from that original Earth Day. 

Many cities and suburbs have taken to fully mixable one-step curbside
recycling containers. It's so easy and efficient! The waste containers
have a radio code in the lid that helps the truck speed from one stop
to another. The picture here is from Indianapolis, Indiana. 

Yes, Earth Day might be just a single day in the year for many people to think about the Earth we live on. I can't disagree with that; I know people personally who live that way, compartmentalizing things that make them uncomfortable or that demand that extra step. But those first ripples in the water went on to become a movement that changed our perception of the world. I'm grateful that we still celebrate and acknowledge Earth Day because even if it's only a single day, that's one day of thought that can fertilize more awareness in the future. 

I'm so grateful that I've had an opportunity to be part of
environmental awareness for most of my life. It's a gift. 

Have a wonderful Friday and enjoy every aspect of it. I'm quickly choosing pictures and getting this posted. Running late for my swimming! ACK! 

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