There is no greater priority for all of us. But since 1970, the single most important day in our year gets minimized
It was the spring of my seventeenth year. I'd already left home and was on my own, just out of high school and working on one of the beaches in Tampa, Florida, renting out cabanas. The blue birds had filled the beach towns along the coast, named so for their nearly blue-Canadian skin which scorched in our tropical sun.
The first Earth Day happened that year, while I walked the perfect beaches of my birth state. I had no clue it would birth such a movement. But for so many in the world, that movement is a distant memory at a time when we desperately need real grass-roots activism before there is no more grass.
These days the annual red tide, which used to be a late summer event, is slowly evolving into nearly an all-year event. The air is so bad that you can't go outside; your skin gets irritated if you swim. Dead fish line the beaches. Putting a towel out next to the foul smell is not exactly the vacay you planned.
And red tide is killing the manatees, as its neurotoxins affect their breathing. They are already endangered. This might be the killing stroke, and they're not alone.
With DeSantis at the wobbly wheel, the devastation of climate change hurtles forward now as hurricanes are coming earlier and harder, to say nothing of state's devastated economy. He's selling a tax haven for the rich, at the same time the very attractions that used to draw people to my birth state are dying.
Fast. But that's hardly all. As DeSantis and his cronies peddle hate and racism, an event worthy of a Saturday sci-fi movie is also heading his way:
Condos are uninhabitable, Miami's massive rains flooded the streets so badly recently that people couldn't get out of their vehicles. Other people swam by, given no other choice.
My home state, Florida. The perfect example of the level of denial by politicians and businesspeople and developers and too many everyday people. Those everyday people, including some from my high school, can't be bothered to get engaged in anything related to the environment...possibly because they had barely two hours to get out of yet another poorly-planned, badly-built condo:
This is just my home state. I live in Oregon these days where people, at least on the west side, really do care about the environment. We read the news, we donate to causes, we write our politicians, and we agitate. A great many of us who grew up during the most explosive period of climate awareness haven't forgotten and are getting busy all over again:
Up here in Oregon we have wildfires, rising seas and drought. Nobody but nobody gets out of this scott-free, with growing cities in Arizona and the Southwest about to get their water supply from the Colorado River cut even more drastically. Just south of me we have the devastation of massive spring storms in California wiping out huge agriculture plots. But hey, the wildflowers are blooming, if we can't have our almonds, pistachios, milk and fruit.
This is a gentle agitation for those of you who have the foolish notion that our precious bubble we call Earth is going to get back to some kind of "normal." The ugly truth is that the wide, white beaches of my 1960s and 1970s Floridian youth are gone forever. At least as I knew them, they are gone. These days they stink of dead fish, and the air is foul. My Florida is long gone.
A few years ago I brought home a bottle of sugar sand home from my beloved Sanibel Island. That gorgeous spot, devastated and isolated from the mainland by Hurricane Ian, is still in recovery. Until the next big storm, and they are getting worse:
The best news about Sanibel is that it had a conservation plan.
The rest of the world largely doesn't.
Profit trumps everything, nearly everywhere. My bottle of white Sanibel Sand will likely be the only thing I have from that island for a long time, if Sanibel even survives the coming storms, which are worse. I may never see it again.
I won't detail the species we are losing. The forests, burned for farmland and more cattle. Tropical forests leveled for palm oil for Frito Lay. The unbelievable crap that is dumped in our oceans. In Florida, that's a great deal of why the red tide is so serious. Sewage and chemicals head to the ocean, red tide blooms. The oceans are one big dumping ground while at the same time, we strip it of its living resources.
What we do is unsustainable, with Florida and island nations among the best cases in point.
Florida is just my prime example because it's personal. As an adventure traveler, I have seen the impact of climate change in the Svalbard Islands, where our seed stores- our future if you will- are being protected by fast-melting glaciers. I've seen what's happening in Kenya and Norway, Croatia and Iceland. We have no clue how fast all this is really happening. We're too busy watching Kim Kardashian to notice that the water level is at our knees already.
Just wanted to make a personal point before I introduced an article from two people whose work, if we would only join arms with such visionaries, could help us save and protect what we have. Perhaps if we could pry our eyes off our devices and really see what is happening, we might actually stop some of it. But that's on us.
My friend Dr. Carl Safina and fellow conservationist and prolific writer Paul Greenberg, penned the following for Time:
These are men who love the sea, the creatures in it, the forests which feed our air and the birds which inhabit them. They care deeply that interest in Earth Day has slipped into the background, rather like a beautiful car we bought and then don't bother to maintain.
We need to wake up.
From the article:
...The first Earth Day, co-chaired by Republican Senator Pete McCloskey and Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970, brought more than 20 million people—a tenth of the U.S. population of the time—to the streets. According to a CBS News Special Report of the day, many high schools announced they would excuse absences. Earth Day 1970 remains, reputedly, “the largest single-day protest in human history.”
For all the outrage, wasted hate and blame foisted upon the Boomers, and Safina, Greenberg and I are included, this is what came out of that day. Again from the article, this is what Boomers initiated:
...Within a few years of that first Earth Day and the national sentiment behind it, President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and Congress passed unprecedented environmental laws including the Occupational Safety and Health Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, Toxic Substances Control Act, the National Environmental Education Act, and other protections that have greatly improved human health in our cities and communities and prevented the extinction of hundreds of species.
Safina and Greenberg go on to explain how, after such a powerful start, we're now in dire straits.
Islands are sinking, storms are getting more powerful and species are disappearing even faster. We need to care a lot more about this than being a damned Influencer. Or if you have to be an Influencer, move people towards caring about a disappearing planet, at least the way we know it or would like to keep it.
They argue, and I agree, that Earth Day needs to be held as sacred. I would ask you to read the article and understand why. Kindly put aside any religious affiliations and ask yourself what our responsibility is to the paradise we were given.
My friend Nurit Amichai read the article and added this for reference. For those who are well aware of those who already have deep religious connections to our Mother, here is some of that terminology:
Whatever you believe, practicing it won't be possible without our planet, a livable planet.
The Earth is sacred. We were given paradise and we've made it a parking lot. That song, Big Yellow Taxi, came out in 1970 as well. The meter is running, and time is running out.
We can bring Paradise back, but you and I have to climb aboard. The payments are time, attention, conservation, commitment. Paradise is worth it.
let's put the damned phone down and get busy. I am.
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