Reasons Earth Day Seems More Important This Year


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Today’s Earth Day.  Although I was in third grade at the time of the first Earth Day, none of them have been particularly significant to me until this year. Why is that? Why is it that this year I suddenly am so aware of the condition of our planet? After some consideration, I came up with five reasons.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster brought about by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan demonstrated that, despite all of the safety regulations and precautions that may be in place based upon prior events, we cannot predict the future. Nuclear energy is not clean energy, and the consequences of its use are disastrous.  How many more nuclear disasters will it take before it is eliminated?

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill spewed massive amounts of oil — official estimates indicate 210, 000 gallons per day, although some scientists estimate much more — into the Gulf of Mexico for 85 days.  I was physically queasy and lost sleep for weeks on end as the situation continued day after day with no hope in sight. Some people say the effects were minimal, but I disagree.  How did it make you feel?

The political unrest in the Middle East makes our nation’s continued dependence on oil disturbing at best.  Nonetheless, it brings to light the fact that Americans only curb their appetite for oil when its cost skyrockets.  If high prices will force people to reduce their consumption of oil, then maybe  prices should remain high.  Yes, I know it’s damaging to our struggling economy.  I feel it, too, but the effect on our economy doesn’t change the fact that failure to reduce, if not eliminate, our gluttonous consumption of fossil fuels is disastrous for our planet.  Struggle now or eventually eliminate life as we know it.  Is the choice really that difficult?

Becoming a parent has made me acutely aware of the future.  No longer do I live a carefree existence  from day to day.  With children comes the responsibility of providing adequate food, clothing, and shelter, along with a healthy planet that will allow them and their own children to thrive.

In spite of all of these things, I contribute daily to the pollution of the Earth by driving my car to the store that sells products wrapped in too much packaging,  buying products that are not organic because the organic stuff is too expensive, and often tote it all home in single-use bags because the reusable ones were forgotten at home. These are just a few of the ways I negatively impact the planet, but don’t think I’m very different from the average American.  We know green is good, and we want to be more green, but we can’t see the forest for the trees.  What I mean is that it seems the consequences of changing are expensive when the truth is that the consequences of NOT changing are what’s really expensive.  For proof, just look at the price of gas.

I try to remember to take my reusable bags to the store, recycle what I can, adjust what I’m wearing rather than the  thermostat, remember to turn out the lights when I leave the room, use washable containers instead of disposable plastic, take shorter showers, hang clothing to dry instead of using the clothes dryer, unplug appliances when not in use, use natural cleaners such as baking soda and vinegar, and so on.  Sadly, these actions just aren’t enough.   To save life as we know it on this planet, there must be action on a much larger scale.  Does that mean I shouldn’t continue to try?  Absolutely not!  By continuing to take these small actions and adding just one new thing ever so often, I set an example for my children that living sustainably is a worthy and achievable goal.

I wish I was clever enough to solve the world’s problems.  My children are pretty smart; maybe they will be the ones to find a way to undo the damage that’s been done and lead their generation through to better days.  Only time will tell.  One thing’s for certain:  Earth Day 2011 is a good time to contemplate mistakes of the past, what we are doing in the present, and what we can do to improve in the future because if we are not part of the solution, then we are part of the problem.

What are you doing to ensure a sustainable future?

Charlotte Poltenovage

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