Earth Day 2012, remembering the first Earth Day in 1970

Published 4:55 pm Wednesday, May 2, 2012

April 22 was Earth Day. Most of us can remember the first Earth Day in 1970, which included protests in cities like NYC and Philadelphia, with dire warnings of what could happen to the environment if we keep on polluting. That day Americans took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.
Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.
That was 42 years ago! How much progress has been made? I wonder. Nearly every day I deal with people who “don’t get it.” They do not understand, or care enough to understand, that much of our way of life is actually destroying our planet. It seems like there is something about the environment in the newspaper every day, yet very little changes. Yes, we’ve cleaned up the top of the Chesapeake Bay, but we’re still dumping tons of sediment into the lower part of the Chesapeake daily. What is the number one cause of pollution in the Pacolet River? Sedimentation – same thing. Yet our next-door neighbor does not get the connection that his level, paved driveway contributed to that problem. Straightening Hwy 176 contributed to it; mechanically clearing the bank of kudzu to plant something else contributed to it; putting in the road to the house lot I was going to sell contributed to it. Do you remember that law of physics we learned so long ago, that every action creates an equal and opposite re-action? Put that with “water runs downhill” and it does not take a rocket scientist to imagine what the re-action might be.
But we’re not listening. We are trying to keep on doing the same thing, maybe with a few minor adjustments, and expect a completely different outcome.
Our country is built on progress enabled by limitless natural resources to be dug, drilled, cut and sold, and we say that “we” did it.