Spirit of Earth Day more im­por­tant than date

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

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.

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