Our everyday actions can impact the planet
April 8, 2021
April 22 is recognized around the world as Earth Day. In 1970 the U.S. established the first Earth Day, and now more than 193 nations take part in the celebration.
Like last year, this year’s events will be subdued because of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. While we may not be able to participate in public activities, we can all use this day to ponder the effects of man-made activities on our planet. The first step in becoming an environmentalist is to be aware of how our everyday actions impact the planet.
The definition of an environmentalist, according to Dictionary.com, is “any person who advocates or works to protect the air, water, animals, plants and other natural resources from pollution or its effects.”
Given that definition, it is hard to believe anyone would identify as an “anti-environmental” person. After all, we only have one livable planet in the solar system, and shouldn’t we all be trying to protect our only home?
I fell in love with our planet at a very young age. When I was 8 years old, our family moved from the city to a rural area. Growing up with woodlands as my backyard helped foster this love affair.
I spent countless hours with field guides and my binoculars exploring the woodlands. I also read books by authors like Walden, Audubon and John Muir. I began to realize how important wilderness areas are in our lives.
Before the 1970s environmental policies and laws were non-existent. Many of you remember the Cuyahoga River fires, the black plumes of pollutants streaming from industrial smokestacks, the toxic wastes buried under the city of Love Canal and streams foaming from phosphate detergent contamination.
These were some examples of how we were destroying the planet we call our home. As citizens became aware of the threats to their world, politicians like President Nixon decided to create policy and laws to protect us. Shortly after the first Earth Day, the Environmental Protection Agency was created.
For me, Earth Day has become a moment to take inventory of what we have done to help the planet and what still needs to be addressed. Sadly, the past year has been another year of destruction for the planet. The agencies that were put in place to protect “human health and the environment” have failed us and the planet.
We are still destroying the rain forests at an alarming rate, still highly dependent on fossil fuels, still manufacturing enormous amounts of single-use plastics, still relying on petrochemicals to grow our lawns and foods, and still not addressing climate change.
Those who believe we cannot save the natural world and also have good jobs at the same time are wrong. Those who believe the “climate crisis is a hoax” are wrong. Those who believe “environmentalists” are wacko folks who have no jobs and live in their parents’ basements are wrong. Those who believe environmentalists are “outsiders” who only want to demonize progress are wrong.
Who are environmentalists? They are preservationists, naturalists, ecologists, teachers, farmers, birders, beekeepers, entrepreneurs, engineers, moms, dads, grandparents and even kids; the list can go on and on. Environmentalists are people who are consciously aware of how their actions affect the planet. They are people who care about the world we will pass down to the next generations.
Becoming an environmentalist is a learning process. There is no such thing as a perfect environmentalist, but every time you take a step to change a destructive habit, you make a difference.
As I discover new ways to step lightly on the planet, I try to pass that knowledge on to friends and my readers. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Anyone who has worked as either a professional in the environmental field or a volunteer will tell you it is hard work and often depressing work. Sadly, there are more times the natural world loses a battle rather than wins one.
Concerned people from the states of West Virginia and Virginia have been protesting the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline for over two years. This 303-mile pipeline passes over 200 miles of land referred to as “high landslide susceptibility,” which means the steep slopes it transverses tend to erode and slip. This threatens the rivers and streams that are crossed by the pipeline. The pipeline has already been fined $303,000 by West Virginia’s DEP for violations as they failed to control erosion and water contamination. MVP also was fined $2.15 million by Virginia’s DEP for similar violations.
Recently, law-enforcement workers removed the last two tree-sitters at the Yellow Finch Blockade tree-sit. The people at this blockade were willing to sacrifice weeks and even months of their lives in an effort to protect forests, streams and rivers in the path of the pipeline. This loss was another example of how industry, aided by flawed policies and laws and supported by bought-off political leaders, often triumphs against local citizens trying to protect their property from eminent domain.
Nearly 50 years of personal experience as an environmentalist has taught me this fact. Corporations have endless resources and lobbyists that they use very effectively to craft pro-industry regulations and to influence political leaders.
The debacle of Ohio’s HB 6, the bill to bail out failing nuclear energy in the state, is proof. Citizens often find themselves in a David versus Goliath battle; they feel overwhelmed. However, every toxin removed, every stream that is cleaned up, every species that is protected and every acre of forest preserved are wins for environmentalists.
Each of us can take steps to make a difference. Some ideas: cut back on energy use in your home, carpool, recycle, consider solar panels for your home, ask your grocery store manager to reduce single-use plastics, elect pro-environmental politicians, cut back on meat consumption, support and join eco grassroots organizations, purchase sustainable products, and encourage your children to step lightly on the planet. Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child in the Woods,” points out how kids today suffer from a lack of exposure to the natural world. Earth Day would be a great time to take a hike in the woods and start introducing the young people in your life to the natural world. In the end Earth is still our only home. Isn’t it time we step up to protect it?