The 51st Earth Day is Thursday, April 22. Are you planning to do something good for the earth? Homo sapiens has not really been kind to the earth and its other inhabitants. Humans have this weird idea that anything can be done to earth and all of its other children (plants, trees, and wildlife) and it will just bounce back as usual. Do we really know the sacrifices made at the expense of nature to satisfy our appetite for whatever we desire right now?
Spoiler alert: People have become very adept at shirking responsibility, from uncontrollable and uncontrolled purchasing habits, creating endless mountains of trash and plastics on land and in the ocean, and consumption rampant water and fuel. Developers continue to clear native habitats and wildlife to build homes and roads. Little restoration is ever attempted. Is the root laziness, levity, greed or money? Are we supporting deforestation for cheap avocados, palm oil and bananas? The generations of animals and plants that have lived in these regions for centuries, are they only collateral damage, not worth our time or our efforts?
Populations of animal species declined by 60% globally between 1970 and 2014 due to habitat loss and destruction of forests to plantations of avocados, sugar, coffee, bananas and palm trees as well as industrial meat production and soybean cultivation. Let’s not forget about pollution, erosion and climate tanking. Trafficking in wild plants and animals for pets, medicines and luxury foods has increased at an alarming rate. Many species at the local level have been caused to disappear, but few studies have even been carried out to document the losses. Elizabeth Albert on the February 2021 Mongabay.com site wrote about the terrible signs of species decline in the wildlife trade. Eight billion people have gathered on the most beautiful, life-giving planet in our solar system and watch how we treat it.
In 1962, Rachael Carson said: “In nature, nothing exists on its own. Birds and insects migrate earlier and change their routes. Plants flower earlier. Ecosystem cycles are no longer synchronized. The Greenland ice sheet is melting rapidly; billions of tons of liquid ice every year. The ice sheet contains 8% of the earth’s fresh water. The average level of the oceans is increasing. Isotope fingerprints identify increasing levels of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, not natural events. Billions of people impact the oceans, land and atmosphere.
Two men from different backgrounds were the founders of Earth Day. One has been largely ignored. Called the Father of Earth Day, former Senator and Governor of Wisconsin Gaylord Nelson was passionate about nature and the environment. The son of a registered nurse and country doctor, Nelson received his law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School at Madison, served in the military for four years during World War II and then entered politics. He was very visible, operated from an active political platform and organized the first “Environmental Teach-in” on April 22, scheduled during spring break at the university to increase student participation.
John McConnell’s name was omitted from most Earth Day articles. McConnell was more low-key and the underdog. He wanted to foster unity and nurture appreciation for the land. The entrepreneur, newspaper publisher and peace activist first coined the term “Earth Day” used on March 21, 1970, to coincide with the spring equinox. The son of a Pentecostal evangelist, his early visions of pacifism and the stewardship of God’s creation inspired McConnell. At the UNESCO Conference on the Environment in 1969, McConnell proposed a global Earth Day celebration to become an annual celebration to remind each person that they are the steward of the environment and that everyone is responsible for preserving the Earth’s resources.
McConnell designed the first “Flag of the Earth,” our vibrant planet against a dark background that still floats today. He always carried with him his Earth Day proclamation with 36 signatures including Buzz Aldrin, John Denver, Buckminster Fuller and Mikhial Gorbachev. McConnell promoted peace, justice and care for the land.
Two visionaries whose goal is to bring together the peoples of the earth to preserve the sacredness of their planet. In 1970-1971, Democrats and Republicans came together to pass the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and created the Environmental Protection Agency.
The theme for Earth Day 2021 is “Restore our Earth”. The earthday.org group says, “As the world returns to normal, we cannot return to the status quo. Three days of climate action take place from April 20 to 22. The Global Youth Climate Summit will be held on April 20 with panels, discussions and special messages. On April 21, Education International is leading a multilingual virtual summit focusing on the role of educators. On Earth Day, earthday.org is hosting a digital live event.
Want to restore the earth? It’s yours. Help pollinators by using innovative mowing patterns, tell educators in Oklahoma to make climate part of the school curriculum, introduce your kids to nature, preserve natural areas around your cities, designate native areas in your garden, implement regenerative agriculture with a focus on soil health and water management, carry reusable grocery bags, drink your water from reusable bottles and buy glass or paper products. Pick up trash wherever you see it. Some must have the most pristine car interiors, since everything else is dumped through their car windows. Keep plastic gloves on hand (or hands) for unexpected waste. Here it is everywhere. Locate aluminum and metal recyclers in the area.
“To make the world a better place than you found it, sometimes you have to pick up other people’s garbage.” – Bill Nye the scientist.
Charity begins at home. You can’t take good care of your family if they don’t take good care of the land.
“This is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish natural resources, cherish history and romance as a sacred heirloom, for your children and your children’s children. Don’t let selfish men or greedy interests rob your country of its beauty, riches or romance. —Theodore Roosevelt – curator, naturalist and 26th President of the United States.
Becky Emerson Carlberg, Oklahoma State Graduate (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer, and certified master gardener and naturalist from Oklahoma. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.