Today, April 22, is Earth Day, a day that grows more significant and important each year. Reports about about humanity’s need to curb our insatiable appetite for natural resources has increased from a trickle to a raging river worth of news.
In 1969 the Cuyahoga River, which winds its U-shaped way through Cleveland where I grew up, caught fire. The river feeds into Lake Erie. After a storm we often found hundreds of dead fish rotting on the rocky beach, killed by ingesting the toxic industrial waste dumped into the river. Regulations helped and once enforced, the lake began to heal.
Serious, not Hopeless
The media blasts the urgent, global call to nurture rather than plunder and pillage Mother Earth. The concerns have moved beyond a small group of nature lovers to millions who have suffered from floods, famines, and fires, all impacted by climate changes. Concerns about the natural world have escalated from challenge to crisis level. The daunting situation causes some to roll eyes, shrug shoulders, and adapt to a fatalistic attitude that the problem is too big to solve, so why bother? The History of Earth Day demonstrates the power we the people wield when we know, care, and respond.
My first job upon re-entering the workforce after raising pre-schoolers was with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. There I learned about state and federal efforts to protect and manage natural resources. I also saw first hand the devastating results when political ambitions combined with unregulated corporate practices, make making profit the only consideration.
The High Cost of Profits Only Policies
I once lived in an area where strip mining for coal was in full force, leaving ugly scars upon the land. What had once been beautiful forested hills turned into a depressing gray, gooey mass of earth, watered with acid rain run-off. Nothing grew there until mining companies were required to put topsoil back on top, giving nature a chance to reclaim the area.
Nature can heal itself when we step out of the way. While on vacation in rural Vermont one summer we hiked up the side of a mountain with trees and vegetation so dense it was nearly impossible to follow the trail signs. When we found our way back to the nature center, the naturalist showed us a photo album of the area we had just hiked. Forty years earlier loggers had clear-cut the mountain, leaving not a single tree in place. Once people abandoned the area, Mother Nature took over and, in only one generation, the mountain regrew a lush forest.
Management, Not Mutilation
Indigenous people developed helpful forest management techniques. In Australia the Aboriginal set periodic small fires to control the forest underbrush. Driving along rural routes I saw small piles of smoldering vegetation where they were clearing out underbrush. Recent archeological research indicates Native Americans used similar techniques. However, Europeans were more likely to clear-cut an area or leave it unmanaged. As a result, when fires start, dried underbrush turns the fires into raging infernos that quickly spread with the deadly consequences we’ve seen all too often in recent years.
Learn from the Past
We abuse nature to our own demise. When profit is the first, and too often, only priority, we literally destroy our own homes and compromise our futures. We are not helpless. We can address the situation. Even minor changes in our attitudes and actions have and will continue to yield large results. We may not wield the influence of politicians and corporate boards and management, but our actions matter. When enough of demand change, we start to see change. Action is the antidote for apathy.
On Earth Day 2022 I invite you to make a few modest changes to your daily routines. You can learn more from Lutherans Restoring Creation. Many non-profit organizations are at work educating, lobbying, and working to make a positive impact on the environment. I am most familiar with the efforts of this one.
Small Changes, Big Results
Consider these modest steps from an oldie, but goodie resource, 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth.
- Pick up plastic waste to prevent wildlife from ingesting it.
- Carry your own bag and “just say no” to more plastic bags.
- Change detergents to those with low to no phosphates.
- Don’t leave the water running when brushing teeth or rinsing dishes. Running water sends 3 – 5 gallons down the drain every minute.
- Avoid styrofoam whenever possible. Carry your own travel mug.
- Pass on anything made from ivory. 80% of it came from illegally hunted elephants and 30% of it is bought by consumers in the USA.
- Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs.
- Cease the release of balloons. The strings entangle birds, get caught in power lines, and in water look like jellyfish, luring turtles to ingest them.
By making small changes we contribute to the health of the earth that sustains us all. We’re all called to action. Please take the call.
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Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures covers the Pilgrim’s escape from England and much more of the interaction between them and the Pokanoket people. Available wherever books are sold in paperback, eBook, and audio.
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