Earth Day, A commentary

Today, April 22, is Earth Day. April 22 had been designated Earth Day on April 22, 1970, thought to be the beginning of the modern environmental movement. It was eight years since the publishing of Silent Spring, the landmark book by Rachel Carson in 1962, which brought national and international awareness to the disruption of ecosystems by pesticide and herbicide use. Before that time, the interconnectivity of life was rarely considered, and little understood.

On December 2, 1970, President Nixon signed an executive order creating the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, charged with monitoring, maintaining and enforcing national standards, and conducting assessments, research and education. With the EPA, common people, who feel the impact of actions made by people far away in corporate offices, have a place of last resort to appeal to when the safety of their environment is threatened.

We've made considerable progress in cleaning up polluted rivers and lakes and and reducing air pollution. But as technology progresses and because of exploding populations, man finds new ways to challenge the environment. Our planet will never be absent global problems to be assessed, monitored, researched and curtailed. Two issues today under scrutiny are fracking, the processs of injecting fluids and chemicals at high pressure into shale rock formations in gas drilling operations and GMO crops and their potential environmental harm.

Lately, we view Earth Day as a day where our attention is focused, at least for a short time, on the importance of our Planet Earth. One wouldn't think this should be necessary, after all, it currently is the only planet we have to live on. One would think that a yearly reminder to consider the environment wouldn't be necessary. On second thought, maybe it would be better if every day we took a moment to focus on man's actions and its impact on our own ecologies, taking only a one day vacation from Earth's focus in a reverse Earth Day we could call "Dollar Day" or “The Bottom Line”.

I personally believe in the power of one. The ability of one person to make a difference. In this case, in making our planet, Planet Earth, a slightly better place to live, for ourselves and others. There are many things a single person can do as an individual, outside of an organized group. Here are a few suggestions. Today is a great day to be outside, with a low breeze forecast, high temperature of around 79°, and partly cloudy skies.

Help cut down on visual pollution. Nearly every day I find trash that has blown in and snagged on the vegetation in my front garden. This is visual pollution up close that I pick up every day. Every day is a good time to retrieve trash along one's walking route. We can cut down on other pollution as well, such as making a pledge to ourselves to look for and use less harmful methods of pest and weed control.

Learn something new today about nature. Knowing about our native and natural environment is an important beginning in being able to help protect it. Although our wild, natural areas outside the city aren't known for lush beauty, it does contain smaller treasures. Take a walk in Wildcat Bluff, Palo Duro Canyon, or a city park. Visit the Amarillo Botanic Gardens, Tuesday through Sunday. Or walk in a different neighborhood from your own to see what plants and wildlife you might see.

Reduce one's own trash. This is not a popular idea with the business community, but do we really need everything we buy? I always try to remember the ultimate destination of the objects of my desire is the . . . . . trash. Take non-disposable bags shopping with you. This will greatly cut down on all the plastic shopping bags blown up into the tops of tree limbs rippling in the wind.

Be creative in your natural pursuits. Read or write a poem about nature. Our natural world is so precious, countless authors and poets have written about it. There is room in the world for more poems.

Here is my favorite poem, by William Wordsworth, 1770 – 1850. Wordworth spent his life among nature. As many of the young men of that day, his school vacations were spent on walking tours in England and the continent of Europe. People lived in nature and had a deep connection to it. Today, we have so many more distractions that draw our attention away from the natural world, that a new malady has been identified, Nature Deficit Disorder*. What would Wordsworth write today, I often ask myself, if two hundred years ago he lamented their disconnect with nature.

The World is too much with us

by William Wordsworth

“The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not. --Great God! I'd rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.”


Angie Hanna, April 22, 2013

*The Nature Principle, Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv, Algoquin Books, 2011.