22 April 2014

Happy Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day, and it's almost as old as I am. The event, that is, not the earth. Ahem.

Although I was only a toddler when the first Earth Day event occurred, I remember well the era of the hippie flower child: vivid memories of the bright pink, green, and yellow flower pattern pants I wore and of my mom painting brightly colored daisies on the rear fender of my dad's VW bug are still with me. I wish that Bug was, too.

Earth Day was founded by then US Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI), inspired by student anti-war protests and the devastating effects of a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara. Seeking to channel protestors' energy into a common agenda to improve the environment, Nelson enlisted help from Congressman Pete McCloskey (R-CA) to serve as his co-chair. Together they rallied supporters and organized events across the country. Democrats and Republicans working together? Whoda thunk!

The stage had been set by the publication in 1962 of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. I'm kicking myself for not picking up a copy at the second hand bookshop the other day, for I've never read it. The book sold half a million copies in 24 countries and raised awareness of the environment and all the living things that inhabit it.

Are you my mummy? (photo:
Fast forward forty-something odd years and that sense of hippie flower power is still with us. Until recently buzzwords like "green", "sustainability", "eco-friendly", "organic", etc. were used to excess and people are becoming more aware of the importance of clean air, water, energy, and food. 'Grow Your Own' has become a movement in its own right with more and more people ripping out their water and chemical loving lawns in favor of home grown veg (and getting fined for it, too). At the same time, high profile battles are being waged against oil lobbyists and mammoth corporations like Monsanto which give me pause and make me ask just how far have we come since 1970? Technological and scientific advancement is all well and good but when those advances are forced on the population for monetary gain, how is that good? It can be argued that GMO crops aren't making us or the earth well, either, so is all the blather really effecting any change?

Image from the movie Wall-E, which should be required viewing on Earth Day
As I sit here working on a business plan for starting up a CSA on the family farm, one thing is certain: every day in the garden should be Earth Day. In studying agricultural and horticultural methods used as recently as 100 years ago it's obvious that 'organic' and 'sustainable' are not new concepts, just new terms applied to traditional methods. Perhaps in order to go forward, we must look backward and pay attention to what we see there?

So how will you celebrate Earth Day? Cities and towns all over the world are sponsoring events so getting involved is easy: Picking up trash on the side of the road or in your local park, local habitat clean up or restoration, taking a class about the environment and stewardship, planting flowers in your town's high street to make it more enjoyable, maybe even peacefully protesting the use of harmful chemicals in your local public open spaces where kids and animals play. It could even be as simple as planting a flower bed in your own garden.


However you choose to spend the day, I hope you'll at least give some though to the Earth and what an excellent planet it is to live on. After all, we don't have many alternatives and, while the time each of us is on it is just a blip, many more generations are coming and we should leave them something worth living on.

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