Field of Science

Earth Day – 1970 and 2010

Well, it’s been 40 years since my first Earth Day which I attended in my senior year in college. Unfortunately the impact of Earth Day was over shadowed by political events, the anti-war demonstrations culminating in the Kent State shootings and wide-spread student strikes at colleges and universities, including mine. As a graduating senior, I was more concerned about 1. graduating because that was a bit uncertain given the strike and crossing student picket lines to finish biology courses needed for graduate school that fall (having just been accepted), and 2. getting drafted and shipped off to Vietnam in the interim was a real possibility even though the Phactor was a “winner” in the 1st draft lottery by having a fairly high number assigned to my birthday. It had been a decade of considerable turmoil for people my age. At the height of the cold war this teenager helped friends build a bomb shelter in their basement and had my Father explain why that wouldn’t matter if the Russians dropped the big one. That was followed by involvement in social justice and integration straining race relations and landing me in the middle, quite by chance, of one of the race riots that left a city burning. Then fast forward to the Vietnam War and the loss of too many friends. For some reason a good grade in English literature (and many other subjects) just didn’t seem all that important.
And now Earth Day doesn’t seem as important any more either, and it's not because things have gotten a whole lot better, although many things have gotten worse much slower, and a few things like wild turkeys and the like are more common than they were. A lot of green-washing is going on; everyone is trying to cash in, our capitalist system at work, but the type of big changes needed do not seem to be in the offing. The average citizen, the type mesmerized by simple-minded rhetoric and easy-to-shout slogans, truly fails to recognize the types of changes and the magnitude of changes really needed to preserve our environment. It isn't plastic bags and water bottles that will make a difference, although they may be symbolic of the type of thinking needed. Most people wouldn’t think of water as our biggest resource problem, but it probably is, and we continue to waste it blightly in spite of rain barrels becoming a bit more common. And if people really understood the concept of a tipping point, climate change would scare the crap out of them because by the time to can convince the nay-sayers and politicians, it will be too late.

But mostly I'm reminded of a poster from 40 years ago that still speaks volumes. To quote Walt Kelly’s Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” (Earth Day Poster, 1970)

No comments: