Thursday, April 23, 2015

Happy Earth Day

I know I am a day late with this post, but yesterday was one of those days where I worked my full time job (1:00-915 PM) then went straight to my part time job (10:00-3:00AM).  In fact, I apologize again in that I know I often comment on the state of the earth, especially in regards to those who choose to not see the damage we have wrought, but I did not see a label for any previous post that referred to Earth Day specifically, or even the environment, in general.  Hopefully this post will make up for that oversight.

Before I begin, I did a bit of research on Earth Day.  I was looking for the environmental factors present in the 1960's that inspired the first Earth Day in 1970.  Of course, as I have previously mentioned, Rachel Carson's 1962 release of Silent Spring which detailed the widespread damage that had been caused to multiple levels of the food chain and the environment from the use of the pesticide DDT could be argued as the starting point.  But a quick "google" of environmental disasters which occurred post World War 2, includes, but is in no way encompassing, such problems as the Centralia, PA mine fire (still burning today), mercury poisoning from industrial dumping which caused Minamata disease in Japan, dangerous smog levels in most large US cities, including one particularly dangerous episode in New York City in 1966 which killed about 80 people, and the spontaneous ignition of the Cuyahoga River in 1969 in Cleveland from unstable chemical effluents.

If the 1960's was a decade of environmental awareness coming to a head, the 1970's might be classified as the decade where activism began.  Environmental regulations passed in the late 60's were now being used to identify polluters and hold them accountable.  Groups such as the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society and Greenpeace saw their memberships skyrocket, as their visible confrontations with polluters became national headlines.  Also, the iconic picture entitled the Blue Marble, taken by the astronauts of the 1972 Apollo 17 mission, focused attention on the beauty of our planet, the concept that it is our only home, and the fragility of its existence.  

Of course, opposition to this movement was also galvanized, funded in large part by the polluters themselves.  One interesting item I read involved the Communist connection to the environmental movement that was touted by those against these defenders of the earth, as the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970 was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin.  It should come as no surprise then that even today, those advocating for the health of the Earth are sometimes portrayed as anti-American and anti-capitalism.  Nor should it come as any surprise that the "debate" over climate change is being waged with science and environmentalists on one side and the fossil fuel industry on the other.

Unfortunately, many of the gains of those early years, were softened during the Reagan Administration, and the uncertain economics of the time.  Jobs became the focus, and the mantra that the job creators (big business) needed less regulation, along with the belief that everyone would prosper if the large corporations prospered (trickle down economics), ruled the day.  (The fact that the  30 plus years since has demonstrated that allowing big business to prosper resulted in a shift in economic strength from the middle class to the rich, is a sad byproduct to all those years of ignoring our environmental responsibility).  The further efforts that continue to be made by our public servants in Congress today to weaken federal environmental laws, fueled by big monied interests and that insidious Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, speak poorly of a generation whose parents recognized the havoc we were causing and erected barriers to reduce that damage. 

Still, all is not lost.  While the forces that would have us continue to rely on fossil fuels for our energy have an advantage, there has been a proliferation of both new environmental organizations, and membership in those groups.  Those under 25 years of age, when surveyed, demonstrate a strong concern for the Earth and a safer environment.  Even the financial industry, historically a bastion for the make-money-however-you-can crowd, has mutual funds for people who care about how their money is invested and are willing to sacrifice returns to support environmentally friendly businesses and innovators. 

And the Earth itself, while certainly bloodied is not bowed.  She has recovered from the ignorance of the original Industrial Revolution when we spoiled air and water for the sake of our mass production businesses.  She took a shot to the chin with the detonation of WW2 nuclear bombs in Japan, and nuclear waste fires and a nuclear plant meltdown in Russia but has managed to recover much of her glory in Japan, and some in Russia.  And, even when she lashes out against us with dangerous storms and tectonic spasms, she always follows up with the promise of a new spring.

So, Happy Earth Day.  For those of you who acknowledged the celebration, thanks.  For those of you too busy to break from your hectic lives, take a look around the next time you are driving past a meadow, or visit a local park.  The grandeur is there to see, if you have eyes to look. 

And, for those who prefer to live in denial, stop cleaning your home, leave the garbage accumulate, dump toxins in your back yard.  Eventually, it may occur to you that, just as poisoning your home environment is not sustainable, neither is poisoning our global environment.  Perhaps then you might alter your view of Earth and see it as our only home, a big, beautiful, blue marble floating in space.


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