April 22nd is Earth day and you can thank your family for that the next time you sit down for dinner. Why, well it wasn’t that long ago America was really sucking on an environmental basis. So a while back a bunch of hippies decided to get together and have a celebration of the place we live, this planet that well call home. Whippie!!!
But no, really. This is a big deal and those hippies, well they were your parents or grandparents. Why? Well what you probably don’t realize is that in America the place was beginning to look like a landfill. After WWII, the government went through a process to downsize. One of the bureaucracies that were cut from the picture was a national recycling program. Many of your grandparents probably still remember what it was like to take newspapers, soda bottles, aluminum and all kinds of items and turn them in, many times for money. This is how they got to buy dollies and baseball gloves when they were children. They worked for it because their parents taught them how important it was to tend to the things we had like beautiful land and clean water and healthy food that was grown so locally that much of the time you could walk outside in your bare feet and pick it.
These values are the kind that have (ideally) come down from generation to generation. Unfortunately, in any society, this is only a representative of a portion of the population. Corporations were still corporations and without regulatory oversight it doesn’t make sense to be responsible to the planet at the expense of the bottom line. It’s the kind of attitude that says, if I’m not told something is wrong – it must not be wrong for me to do. And devastation was laid out on the countryside. Eventually, major city beaches were being closed due to pollution, waterways caught fire due to chemical and oil spills and masses of animals were mutating and dying from unnatural changes to their environment.
So our parents, and grandparents, they did something about it. Earth day rallies, like those of civil rights and women’s suffrage actually did make an impact. The disasters that were befalling our country were visible to the naked eye and people cared about it. They thought about you and me and our children. They didn’t want to leave a legacy that was shameful, deadly and horrific. So they took action. They made cities build waste water treatment facilities, (before it often went from toilet to river to tap in the next town). They banned chemicals like DDT and They cleaned up most of the messes they made. They set rules into place that said, what we did was not ok – and nobody should be allowed to do this in the future.
And here we are in 2013. While human waste is cleaned before entering the waterways, mass quantities of factory farm waste is not regulated. Instead of filling our waterways with oil and chemicals we are loading them with a different chemical that is producing the same results in killing off biospheres of natural wildlife – plastic. While air pollution standards have made visible skies in major cities a reality, we are now burning Tar Sands Oil- which is producing double the amount of carbon-dioxide standard crude oil emits. And instead of boldly declaring the atrocities of big industry, news agencies are now owned, operated and invested in the entities they are supposed to be holding accountable. This month the FAA declared an American NoFly Zone because an oil company (and the government) doesn’t want bad press to negatively impact infrastructure plans that are bad for our country.
So does Earth Day mean anything to you? Will the sacrifices and values of those that wanted you to have a clean planet encourage you to make changes in your life, to stand in unison with one another over real issues and to hold big polluters accountable not just with the click of a mouse button but with real action? Please I encourage you to take the time to consider – what kind of life are we leaving behind and begin making simple changes like bringing your own bags to the grocery store, riding public transportation and more importantly write your representatives and hold them accountable to standing strong on issues that matter to you.
Most importantly, if you have children – on April 20th (Saturday) show them what Earth Day is about by spending time outdoors, learning about or doing something special, they will only learn what you pass on.