Spirit of Earth Day more important than date
In Charles County, several schools hosted events commemorating it. On Friday, students from Lackey High School joined members of the Mattawoman Watershed Society to help clean up shorelines and waterways.
And although the official date for Earth Day is April 22, it’s less about the calendar and more about the spirit of it. Earth Day is a good time to reflect on the progress we’ve made on living responsibly on this planet. It’s also a time to take a hard look at changes we still need to make.
As humans grew in scientific knowledge, we discovered we had done a lot of damage to the world around us even as we made exciting new technological advances. Slowly, efforts began to get the word out and start fixing the problems.
According to the Earth Day Network’s website, Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D) of Wisconsin founded Earth Day in 1970 after a massive oil spill in 1969 in Santa Barbara, Calif., in an effort to get environmental protection into the national agenda. Twenty million people demonstrated in rallies for a healthy environment, the network says, and groups fighting for different environmental causes realized they had common values.
Today, more than a billion people worldwide take part in Earth Day activities, the organization says.
Campaigns against littering, laws to keep industrial waste out of streams and smog out of the air, and regulations to protect endangered species all have come out of the environmental movement, but we can see there is still a need for Earth Day.
Last year, for example, volunteers took part in Project Clean Stream, an effort organized to clean up the Chesapeake Bay watershed’s rivers and streams. They pulled thousands of pounds of trash out of streams, including car tires, lawn chairs, bicycles, TVs, oil drums and car parts.
On one hand, we can celebrate this achievement, but we also have to recognize that if a few hundred volunteers can pull this much trash out of the water in a day, there’s probably a lot of trash still out there. Of greater concern, it seems there are a lot of people out there who still are throwing trash out of their boats and cars.
And while Charles County’s latest reported recycling rate was a respectable 51 percent (in 2014), there’s always room for improvement.
Other goals are more long term and more serious. We have a long way to go to develop truly clean energy that will be abundant and reliable. We all would like someday to see cleaner water in the bay, with its creatures thriving and abundant populations of oysters and blue crabs. We face serious challenges from a rising population that lives near rising seas.
We owe it to ourselves, to our descendants and to the planet to take these challenges seriously and to search for solutions.
A good way to start is by grabbing a trash bag and heading out today to pick up some litter from your street or local stream, or joining local volunteer efforts when they take place.
But don’t stop there. Do what you can to stop littering and pollution every day.