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Where We Live: Earth Day

Earth's largest secular holiday is here again.

Happy Earth Day! Next Sunday, April 22, is the 42nd Earth Day.  The coordinator of the first Earth Day was Denis Hayes, a local guy (born in Camas, now President of the Bullitt Foundation and a Seattle resident).  So make up a picnic, go out, soak up the sun (come on sun!) and smell the roses.  That’s actually a nice sentiment, but kind of problematic, since this holiday isn’t some pat observance, like Fathers’ Day. Anyone can celebrate that one, even if one’s own father was… non-ideal, because one can still honor another father figure or at least celebrate what fatherhood ought to be.

Years ago I wrote a song for Seattle’s creek-daylighting

initiative campaign. Part of it went:

“It may take thirty years, but it is surely worth the time.

For if we do not do it just as surely that’s a crime.

We may see little difference, but our kids will see a lot,

And their kids and their kids beyond will live in what we’ve wrought

And if we fail they’ll live in that, so we must not be meek!

Daylight all our creeks!”

Yes, it’s about our streams and wetlands, but this verse is really about all environmental issues. It took time to get us into this mess, it’ll take a lot more time than we’d like to pull us out, and it’s unforgivable not to try- a direct theft from our descendants.

Earth Day is not simply a love-in for pretty landscapes or “charismatic megafauna” (the animals people love). It demands thought and participation- sustained action to preserve what we have and restore what we and our progenitors have damaged or destroyed. It’s a resounding call to pay real attention and get done the things we owe our great-grandkids!

Great-grandkids, yes, that’s my rule of thumb for planning. The Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy thought “the seventh generation” was a good benchmark- do a thing only if it will be beneficial or at least not harmful to the seventh generation ahead. That’s where the household products brand gets its name. This may be the best way to remember what it’s about: “We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.” - Native American traditional

People scoffed when , but there are those thinking much further ahead, like a thousand years! The Foundation For The Future’s business is to think as deeply and comprehensibly as possible about issues way beyond the next election cycle, the next generation, or even the next century, to what the next civilization will have to deal with. Their overview states: “The Foundation conducts a broad range of programs and activities to promote an understanding of the factors in the social, genetic, biological, medical, psychological, physiological, cultural, technological, and ecological fields that may have an impact on human life during coming millennia.”

So, back to the present. What do we do now? The last verse of that song goes:

“Some buildings must be moved; some roads we need to rearrange.

We have to fight inertia and we must use all our brains.

Grab your picks and shovels, telephones and money, too,

Then grab your neighbor’s hand and let him know what he can do.

To build the finest city ever should be what we seek!

Daylight all our creeks!”

There are many Earth Day events which would welcome your help:

*  is holding an “Earth Day Every Day” event in their parking lot from 9:00AM to 3:00PM.

* There’s a work party at Richmond Beach Saltwater Park from 10:00AM to 2:00PM.

* Densmore Pathway in Echo Lake Park will have a work party starting at 10:00AM.

* In Edmonds, there’s a beach cleanup from 11:00 to 2:00
at the Marine Sanctuary next to the
ferry dock.

There may be more I don’t know, but there is another alternative. The list of environmental things needing attention is long. Pick one and start it.

Jim Corcoran April 15, 2012 at 01:43 PM
"As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease." Worldwatch Institute, "Is Meat Sustainable?" "The livestock sector emerges as one of the top contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale and its potential contribution to their solution is equally large. The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency." UN Food and Agricultural Organization's report "Livestock's Long Shadow" “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains... the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund Why would someone choose to be vegan? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE and http://www.veganvideo.org
Janet Way April 15, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Dear Larry, Thanks for this sweet tribute to Earth Day! As someone who enthusiastically participated in the original Earth Day (wow it seems like yesterday, but if was many years ago!), I applaud your enthusiasm. Also, as one of the leaders of the Daylight Thornton Creek campaign and the Save Seattles Creeks Initiative, thanks for the endorsement. One of the things we learned, was while the idea is simple, getting it done sometimes takes a long time. The Northgate process for Daylighting Thornton Creek, took many layers of effort including, legal, scientific, publicity, outreach and political. It took ten years, and finally came about because we had enormous public support, tenacity and great cooperation finally from Seattle and Regional political leaders, a great lawyer, Knoll Lowney and a visionary developer, Bruce Lorig. But most of all, it was our group, the Thornton Creek Legal Defense Fund (and especially our treasurer, Bob Vreeland who had the long term vision and patience) that kept at it and with all of our partners, we got it done! Happy Earth Week everyone!
Bob MacDonald April 16, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Earth Day is one of my favorite holidays. It is always an opportunity to look back at that first Earth Day and see just how crazy the predictions were and how extreme the extremists were. It helps to keep today's Chicken Little proclamations of doom in context and perspective. Paul Ehrlich and Kenneth Watt were two of the biggest voices in that first Earth Day in 1970, and they were both sure we were all about to die. Of course, back then it was from pollution and overpopulation, and not global warming (or cooling!). “By…[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.” • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.” • Kenneth Watt, Ecologist
Bob MacDonald April 16, 2012 at 12:44 AM
There are just two of the stunning predictions made in 1970 at the first Earth Day. Life Magazine was certainly impressed: “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….” • Life Magazine, January 1970 So that's it. Pollution, overpopulation, and global cooling have killed us all off long ago, according to the best and brightest scientists of 1970. Of course, we now know they were wrong, just as the Chicken Littles of today are wrong about global warming. I would urge those of you that aren't old enough to remember this stuff to research the environmental movement in the 1970s and see how completely bankrupt it was. You could read about the bet Paul Ehrlich made with Julian Simon over the scarcity of common metals. Ehrlich lost that bet so badly...lol. The history of Earth Day is very entertaining and instructive. The sky isn't falling ;)

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