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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Earth Day: Over 1 Billion Making A Difference!

Earth Day is April 22. This will be the 42nd anniversary marking the beginning of an historical push in promoting awareness and education regarding the health of our planet. Today it is estimated more than 1 billion people participate in Earth Day activities around the world. (www.earthday.org)

The exciting thing about the first Earth Day in 1970 is in its grassroots beginnings. With seemingly no political value at the time, no money, no resources, no education, our environments were being degraded without regard to future environmental health and natural resources. It took the dedication and resourcefulness of some steadfast individuals to find a way to put environmentalism on the political map by tapping into a dedicated student energy who believed our planet to be a worthy cause. The time finally came when people became fed up with the environmental destruction and death around them and communities of concern sprouted up to became active in the name of our planet. And a movement years in the making emerged, initiated by Senator Gaylord Nelson and his staff, who gave voice to those who cared enough about our planet to fight for it in a new arena. Nelson’s fight for the environment and related health hazards encouraged the public to bring the concerns of our planet’s health into mainstream politics. Later that same year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established.

“Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.”

Read more of this article about how the first Earth Day came about by by Senator Gaylord Nelson, Founder of Earth Day. http://earthday.envirolink.org/history.html

Although we have a very long road ahead of us, imagine where we would be without our current standards and sanctions put in place to better protect our environment and our health. What would we be facing without environmental conscience, or the science and education which have since guided our decisions and permeated our lifestyles today? Our air quality is regulated and many pollutants have been removed, we have lead-free gas, and our waste has been more properly managed. We are moving more toward alternative energy sources. Our oceans are being protected, once endangered species are protected, some are even making a recovery--just to name a few.

But, there is still much to be done, as our population grows our planet tries to keep up. Our climate is still in peril, new species are threatened, world waste is suffocating our oceans, big business and some countries refuse to adhere to environmental laws and agreements put in place for the greater good of the planet and the health of their people.

In its beginnings, a day devoted to bringing awareness to the environment had no political value, now it is mainstream the environment has its rightful place on the political agenda. Yet there is still a vital need, an urgency for the world community to more strongly unite, to step up and take stewardship of our planet as a whole.

Much has been established and is working since the first Earth Day, and now we have to maintain that momentum and work to keep the environment front and center, for our future generations. We can do that by:

Vote for candidates you trust and have a track record for putting the environment first. Check their environmental scorecard here:  http://www.lcv.org/scorecard/ and interest group ratings via Project VoteSmart http://www.votesmart.org/issues/NA/30

STAYING EDUCATED & AWARE about the science (including how information is spun and by whom), the money players and political agendas. There are TWO sides to every study. Know who is reporting the study, be aware of sound bites/quotes out of context, who is paying for the research, ultimate agendas.

For example, if excess packaging is your beef, let the company know you will not be buying their product until they change the packaging...and then stick to that promise of action. Or know what super-company owns your favorite stores or restaurants, are they environmentally responsible?

PRACTICING THE THREE R's (reduce, reuse, recycle)
Probably one of the easiest ways to do your part in living green! Most waste services offer curbside recycling. Or choose to recycle on your own, reuse items to keep them out of landfills, reduce you waste by buying package free on the shelf or little to no packaging for shipping.

Buy from companies who do not test on animals, there are many sites that list cruelty free companies like In Defense of Animals http://www.idausa.org/facts/crueltyfree.html, Peta and Peta2 http://shopcrueltyfree.peta2.com/  

In the age of environmental friendly shopping, some companies are falsely claiming to be safe and/or green, taking advantage of green business and “earth friendly” loopholes in their labeling.

Many ways to do this including your commute to work using electric vs. gas vs. cycling, solar energy, home gardening, turning off lights, saving water, etc.

Organic food  labels  in the US are  either 100% organic, 95% organic, or “made with organic ingredients,” a minimum of 70% organic ingredients (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_certification). Know what fruits and vegetables are the most and least contaminated with pesticides, get the list here: http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-214.  The best fight against this is simply buying local, go the your farmers market and see your growers face to face, ask questions about pest control. Supporting local farms reduces our overall impact on the environment and is good for your local economy!

You love our planet? Protect it. You want your children’s children to run free in nature’s playground like you did when you were a child? Protect it. Do you find refuge next to a stream or gazing up at the stars? Keep the waters and the sky clear and clean by protecting them. You want to be able to find new places where nature takes your breath away, or experience the excitement of witnessing a magnificent species in wildlands that your generation helped to protect? Keep protecting it, be a LOUD voice for the land and the animals!

These aren’t the only things we can do, but in a nutshell, we can at least live our daily lives in a way that shows we care for the earth and its species (including humans!) who depend on the balanced dynamic of a living planet.

Has Earth Day made a difference for our environment? YES! Even today? YES! But we need to be vigilant in our individual responsibilities to continue our progress. Be an environmental role model for your children. Go out in nature, let it inspire you, experience its awe, spend the night with it and let it motivate you to keep it pristine and wild.

Start with steps that are practical and easy for you and your family to ensure you will continue to do your part. Once it’s second nature, move on to bigger steps!

Make every day Earth Day now more than ever.