Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day: making the celebration last

This is Sunday, April 22nd: Earth Day.  I had cited the event in earlier posts and there have been several news items this week covering local, national, and international events.  Carl Safina's BLUE Ocean Institute was offering up a "Saving the Ocean" photo contest; in Manila, Philippines, the newspaper The Inquirer held an ocean storytelling event for children; and in Ogden, Utah - as was happening across the nation - the local Nature Center opened its doors with extra events and participation from a variety of conservation groups.

“We do it to give people an opportunity to celebrate nature and the earth, conservation and the environment,” said Mary McKinley, Ogden Nature Center executive director.  “We invite other organizations to provide information about their work and educational options for the environment and stewardship.

Now, there are cynics who might scoff at such a symbolic event like Earth Day, the same folks who wonder why Christmas cheer or Valentine's Day affection can't last all year long.  Given the nature and critical importance of many of the issues that Earth Day attempts to focus attention, their skepticism has a certain degree of merit.  The question is, after one brief moment of celebration, will tomorrow's hangover linger or will it fade away as we all return to our day-to-day lives?

True, there's much to be done.  And much that we can do as individuals.  There are the personal measures we can take, from avoiding plastic bag use to energy-efficient lighting and automobiles, to being more prudent in our seafood choices.

But there are also the big picture issues - the ones that involve international, political organizations - like protecting the Arctic regions and its resources, ocean acidification, predator conservation (sharks, tuna, wolves, and the like), promoting aquaculture, advancing the use of alternative energy, and many more.  There are many important issues such as these that people delegate to other groups in the hope that they will find the solutions and issue the decisions and policies that will make it all right in the world.  However, that delegating of responsibility can also be a thinly veiled abdication of our own obligations. 

I would like nothing better than to prove the skeptics wrong, that Earth Day is not just a fleeting moment but one that, little by little, propels people to consider the environment and encourages them to go beyond their own personal daily efforts - as important as they are - but to voice their opinions and support of those groups who we have assigned to wrestle with the larger issues that might seem to exceed our own grasp.  We must hold them responsible and accountable for their efforts and the results (or lack of results) those efforts produce.

We face big challenges ahead and we need to be sure that the diplomats, politicians, businessmen and other policy makers and decision makers who can truly change the course of this planet's future, they must know - the whole world is watching. 

Source: Earth Day 2012

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