“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
Less than fifty years ago on April 22, 1970, the modern day environmental movement was born and the first Earth Day was celebrated. Rachel Carson, scientist and writer, is credited with raising environmental awareness with the publication of her book, Silent Spring, in 1962. That publication, the political climate of the time, and a series of human-caused environmental disasters led twenty million people to come together and rally for the protection of the environment. On April 22, 2017 it is estimated that over 200 million people worldwide will follow suit and celebrate Earth Day.
So, what to do on Earth Day? I say celebrate! Celebrate this beautiful planet by heading outside, being in nature, and reminding yourself of what you’re rallying for. If you enjoy the natural environment, you could celebrate by taking a hike on one of Bloomington’s many trails, through Indiana’s state parks (I personally recommend Turkey Run), or around the IU campus. You could think of attending a march, planting some flowers in your garden to attract butterflies, or seeing what your community has planned for the day. As John Muir said: “Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
But what about on April 23rd? What happens after Earth Day is over? Let’s get real, it can be annoying to bring your own bags to the grocery store. It can be a minor nuisance to cut the plastic rings from soft drink packaging, or to remember to turn off the water while brushing our teeth. But, if we actually enjoy the clean air we breathe, spotting wild animals while hiking, having clean water when swimming, and eating delicious food grown in healthy soil, then those small sacrifices may not seem to be such an annoyance.
You can celebrate Earth Day every day with a personal commitment to making at least one small change in the near future. Find out what your university (IU Bloomington) or business can do to be greener; use public transport a bit more, produce less waste, buy a reusable water bottle, and/or keep abreast of current legislation so that you can call your representatives and make your voice heard. The March for Science on Earth Day and the similarly-minded Climate March, to be held on April 29th, show that people are re-evaluating the close connection we have to the health of our environment, that every aspect of our lives is inherently tied to our Mother Earth, and that our well-being depends on hers. It is so easy to feel defeated when we hear that regulations–which are intended to protect our water and air–are circumvented, or that the loss of our planet’s biodiversity is being utilized for profit. Well, I say look to all the people mobilizing and gathering to say enough is enough. Look to all the events on Earth Day, the increase of environmental awareness, and how far the renewable energy industry has come. There is hope yet for our pale blue dot.
Ever since the first Earth Day, there have been many challenges for the environmental movement, but that should not stop a single person from doing their part. Just think of all that we have accomplished in terms of pesticides, clean water, plastic bag bans, and clean air. Yes, this movement has waxed and waned a few times since 1970, but still, we move forward.
Earth Day started out much smaller than the global movement we all know today–and that alone is something to celebrate. So on this Earth Day, in a tumultuous year for our environment, go on a hike, walk your dog, sit outside on your porch, enjoy local foods or food from your garden, watch Planet Earth, or attend a march. Remind yourself just how amazing this planet is. Then, keep working in your own small way to keep it that way. “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make” — Jane Goodall.