Today is Earth Day, a special day not only for Earth but also for our family. April 22 is the birthday of our youngest daughter, Shannon. Happy birthday, Earth Day girl!
April 22 is also the anniversary of our friends Mary Jane and Vilis. It is my understanding—correct me if I’m wrong, Mary Jane—that they were married on the very first Earth Day in 1970. Happy anniversary to you, Mary Jane and Vilis!
Here’s a brief history of Earth Day, taken from the history. com website: “Earth Day was the brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, a staunch environmentalist who hoped to provide unity to the grassroots environmental movement and increase ecological awareness. ‘The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy,’ Senator Nelson said, ‘and, finally, force this issue permanently onto the national political agenda.’ Earth Day indeed increased environmental awareness in America, and in July of that year the Environmental Protection Agency was established by special executive order to regulate and enforce national pollution legislation.”
Since Senator Nelson started Earth Day, there have been big improvements with cleaning up the environment, and I have seen them in central Maine, where I have lived most of my fifty-eight years. I grew up in Waterville, by the Kennebec River, and it was so dank and dirty that no one wanted to even dip his or her big toe in it. I suppose there must have been some hardy wildlife living in and by the river, but to my young eyes the Kennebec River in Waterville seemed to be an empty, foaming mass.
And now oh now there are eagles and ospery and ducks and other birds that live by the river. In Augusta, just down from Waterville, there are sturgeons, ancient-looking fish that appear to have time traveled from the Triassic. People go kayaking on the river, and they even dare to go fishing. In Hallowell, there’s a broad pier by the river and plenty of brightly colored chairs where people can relax and enjoy the water on a fine day.
But the dark shadow on the horizon, of course, is climate change, which has turned out to be a huge challenge for humans. Recently, on the radio, I heard an environmentalist say that when it comes to climate change, it is five minutes to midnight. And so it is. Every year Earth gets warmer, bringing us, among other things, droughts, floods, intense storms, dying coral reefs, and rising sea levels.
We are all in this together, and I hope we can all learn to work together to end our dependency on fossil fuels, to lower our carbon output, to stop the world from becoming even warmer.
That is the Earth Day message for now and probably for a very long time to come. And it is one we must carry with us throughout the year.