Today is Earth Day. It’s a beautiful Friday here where I live. No rain today, just glorious spring sun, abundant green leaves, chirping birds and grass and weeds growing so fast you can practically hear them inch their way up toward the sky.
In previous lives, I have celebrated Earth Day by leading rallies on the OSU campus, presenting information to school children, or passing out pamphlets at a Tulsa Earth Day event. I’ve probably also led a few nature hikes and written a few blog posts about this day. This special day was created in the 1970s, but most people have forgotten why it began.
Today, I’ve spent the day quietly in my windowed office, watching the leaves wave in the breeze, the squirrels play in the mulch (probably trying to retrieve the acorns I covered up) and, in general, enjoying the beauty outside my windows as I work.
Today, enjoying the beauty outside, I am no longer naive enough to believe that humans, in their entirety, will ever care much for the planet. For thirty years I actively taught ‘the environment.’ Some listened, but few heard.
In today’s political rhetoric, I hear some politicians talk about getting rid of regulations on businesses — and I think, we have not learned very much. Some of those regulations were created because industries polluted the land, the water and the air with their factories. Some areas of the country came dangerously close to being uninhabitable. We’ve forgotten to teach younger generations about Love Canal, or to explain that the EPA regulations are there to protect us from rampant pollution. Even with those regulations, there is lead in the drinking water in Flint, and who knows how many other places.
Are we going to cut back regulations and allow industries to pollute our air, water and soil again? Are we going to pretend it never happened during those ‘good ol’ days’ of the 50s, 60s and 70s, when we came close to poisoning birds out of existence and destroying the great fishing industries of Hudson Bay and the Chesapeake with pollution? Why is our memory so short?
Thank God we have Earth day, so people like me will speak up again, even though we are discouraged because most of the country has forgotten why we NEED the EPA, or the National Parks, or any of the many agencies and organizations tasked with protecting the land, air and water we need to survive.
Those ‘false prophets’ who say we can have it all, that everything was wonderful ‘back in the day’ when the country was expanding at an exponential rate and the ‘greatest generation’ made their fortunes. They are unaware of what really almost happened.
Thank God for the people who stood up for the environment then. Thoughtful, knowledgeable people created agencies and programs to prevent such almost-disasters from happening again. Yet their efforts continue to be vilified.
“Cut back the EPA regulations, open all lands to industrial efforts, decrease the budget for the parks, and land preservation, and education. We can be great again.”
News flash: we are still great, and one of the reasons we are is because some people have been trying to take care of the planet for the last fifty or sixty years. If we don’t take care of the planet, it won’t take care of us.
Yes, I’m angry.