So today is Earth Day, and just two years shy of its fifty anniversary (as the first Earth Day was April 22, 1970). For the approximate two hundred years prior to the first march to protest the treatment of the Earth, the industrial revolution had been going on, and industries had been taking off and doing what they basically wanted to with little regulation.
Lets take a brief look at how Earth Day came to be. A senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, who had an idea for a “national teach-in on the environment, spearheaded the movement”. He managed to land bipartisan support for the idea, and on April 22, 1970 “20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in coast-to-coast rallies” (earthday.org/about/the-history-of-earth-day). By the end of the year, the bipartisan support in Congress led to the creation of the EPA, and the passage of three vital environmental acts: the Clean Air, the Clean Water, and the Endangered Species Acts.
Since then, the movement has gone global, with millions of people in countries on every continent lifting environmental issues onto the global stage. Things had been progressing at a good pace for starting to reverse the harm that had been done to the planet—several species were brought back from the brink of extinction (Bald Eagle, California condor, and others), though some are still listed as endangered—they’re not critically endangered. Vast areas of rainforests and oceans have been set aside as nature preserves, saving untold number of undiscovered animals and plants from having to be listed on the endangered species list.
But things have gotten somewhat bleak over the past eighteen months—the US president had withdrawn from the Paris Accords (which was for battling climate change, which the current US president and several members of his cabinet do not believe in), the current head of the EPA has rolled back numerous regulations that had been put in place to keep various types of companies in check (water pollution and air pollution), plus allowing numerous pesticides to still be used, even though its been shown that they have adverse reactions on both human health and the environment. If we can survive the current administration, we might still be able to continue to slowly turn back the clock on the damages that are being done.
I will admit that at times, I not the best at recycling, reusing, or repurposing things—I sometimes will buy a bottle of water when traveling instead of trying to fill up my water bottle, and I do toss out plastic bags instead of trying to figure out something else to do with them. But I do try to limit my carbon footprint (I will catch the bus, or depending on the weather I may start walking to work [get both my morning exercise in, and reduce my carbon footprint even more], I do try to remember to toss things into the compose heap, recycle paper and things like that.
This year’s Earth Day is focusing on trying to reduce the amount of plastic trash that accumulates each year. One of the biggest threats to ocean life is actually plastic trash (and this includes the little micro beads in body washes). There are numerous ways of helping to cut down on the plastic trash that makes its way to the oceans:
- Take cloth bags to the grocery store (or if you have plastic bags—reuse them);
- Avoid the plastic silverware when getting take-out. They can’t be recycled and they either accumulate in the landfill or can end up in the waterways.
- Use a refillable water bottle instead of buying water bottled—this save both on the plastic, and the water (as you don’t know where the water could be getting bottled, and if there are any conflicts going on in that area (or even state)).
- Don’t use straws—besides knowing that the straw won’t end up in a landfill or waterway, you also are being good to your health (as its been shown that drinking through a straw can introduce air to your gut—which can lead to indigestion and embarrassing burps).
- If you do have things coming in plastics (say peanut butter or oils)—go with the bigger size containers, and then these are also usually recyclable if you’ve removed most of the food from it.
- Another thing that you can do, is simply try to figure out how to reuse a plastic container that may not be recyclable in your area (starter pots for spices, cactus, or things like that).
For we all need to remember several things: 1) Fossil fuels are running out—it took millions of years for those deposits to form, and its taken up less than 300 years to almost use them all up—and they don’t replenish at a rapid rate. 2) We need trees to produce our oxygen for us—without oxygen there is no life on the planet. 3) There is no planet B within our solar system, and even if there were—right now we aren’t equipped to get there. 4) GMO foods won’t kill us—as our population continues to grow, the amount of farming land is continuing to shrink (due to climate change), and therefore we need to ensure that crops can grow in a changing environment and feed the ever growing population of our planet. And finally 5) no matter how much money one has—if the planet dies, we all die along with it—there is no escape. So lets all pitch in to help save the planet we live on—renewable energy is where we need to be investing, along with new farming techniques and GMO plants that can survive in the new harsh climates that we are unfortunately creating.