on earth day, looking back–and ahead

Earth Day messagesEARTH DAY HAS BEEN OBSERVED for 41 years as of today–since April 22, 1970–but long before this important mobilization of millions, other voices helped raise consciousness about our individual, and collective, responsibilities to our environment.

The Work Projects Administration, or WPA, was a jobs and public works program, not an environmental one, I know, but among its many projects were some that focused on water conservation and parklands. So a selection of its vintage posters (such as those above, from the Library of Congress collection, and in this popular slideshow) speak to me with contemporary-sounding messages, though they were created just before World War II.

Messages about precious water, trees, and green space.

Thoughts of Rachel Carson

IFOUND MYSELF paging digitally through the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale this week, too, where Rachel Carson’s papers are housed. There she is in black and white, peering through a microscope in 1962, the year “Silent Spring” was published; there are sheets from legal pads, now faded, inked in her own hand, saying things like this about attempts by proponents of chemicals “…to achieve a reasonable accommodation between the insect hordes and ourselves.” She added:

The current vogue for poisons has failed utterly to take into account these most fundamental considerations. As crude a weapon as the cave man’s club, it has been hurled against the fabric of life—a fabric on the one hand delicate and destructible, on the other miraculously tough and resilient—and capable of striking back in unexpected ways.”

A Few Current Inspirations

THESE DAYS I FOLLOW various blogs to try to stay aware of challenges to the environment being made by the green industries and big agriculture and by us–reading things like the daily postings of Paul Tukey of Safe Lawns [dot] org, or author Michael Pollan’s “Today’s Link” page, or sampling the action-packed site of the Organic Consumers Association, among many others.
With such inspirations old and new in mind, on Earth Day this year, I promise:

  • To continue to follow organic gardening practices, and encourage others to get off the “crude weapon” of chemicals.
  • To take ongoing good care of my patch of soil, and also compost like a fiend.
  • To continue to eat a plant-based diet as I have for decades, since lower on the food chain uses fewer resources to produce. (Everyone could at least start with a “Meatless Monday,” no?)
  • Not to purchase any GMO products, or buy from vendors who sell them.
  • To think about water each time I use it, not taking for granted that my well is deep or that I live in an area with relatively high rainfall. Remember what Rachel Carson said: The “fabric of life…” is “capable of striking back in unexpected ways.” I think in an era of climate change, we are face to face with that reality.

What’s on your commitment list today and going forward?

10 comments
April 22, 2011

comments

  1. says

    I remember reading Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring.” in 1970. Her ideas were seemingly so far from the center at that time in this area (a big vegetable growing region in Wisconsin), that it was look upon as equivalent to her writing a book on UFOs, bigfoot, or ghosts.

    The first time I saw an eagle was when I was 12. I didn’t see another until I wa nearly 35. Now, in my 50s, I am happy to report there is a nesting pair in a large tree in a nearby park. I see them quite frequently in other areas of Wisconsin, as well.

    • says

      Thanks, Donald; nice to see you. Less water hogs is right. I water by hand so it has to be freshly planted or aging or something in the vegetable garden to rate a dose. I’m with you!

  2. Kristina says

    We are installing rain barrels to harvest water from the sky to use in our gardens and yard. We live in a very wet area (less than 1/4 mile from a wide sandy river) but I think we need to do better with our water usage. I am also going to commit to purchasing products with the least packaging. It’s so annoying to buy a box of toothpaste and have to unwrap the plastic around the carboard box to get the tube of toothpaste out! Perhaps I should just make our own toothpaste? Not sure how that would go over in my house! :) And we must do better with our composting!

  3. Stacy M says

    I found this year that I didn’t hear a peep about Earth Day. I remember when I was younger it was out there and people were talking about it. Do people have “eco-fatigue”? It does seem like every time you hear news about the environment it seems to be bad/getting worse. You would think this would make people more interested in making things better, but it doesn’t. It seems to annoy them and then they continue doing things that are wasteful. It gets discouraging after a while.

    I’m glad to see that you have some goals this year, and some of your readers also seem committed to doing their small part. If we all do our bit, we can make a difference.

    I’m working on reducing my waste, and reducing what I’m purchasing in general. I got a rain barrel that I’m going to hook up, and grow more of my own food. I’ll keep watching here for tips!

  4. Rae says

    I’ve been recycling paper, plastics, glass, cans, cardboard for quite some time. Composting garden waste and kitchen waste in the summer has also been my mission. This year I found seeds at a garden store which weren’t GM and I will continue to patronize local farms and markets as much as possible. Sometimes I think all the problems children are experiencing (autism, for example) relates to the chickens, meat and produce they have been served. One of my daughters works for a brewery who is eco-friendly and always does something for Earth Day across their sale areas.

  5. Lori says

    we are lucky enough to have a stream on our property. for years we wondered about channeling the water for garden use. my boyfriend came upon a website offering plans to build a simple ram-jet pump from pvc plumbing parts. watering our garden is an event – we call it the water taxi – once the pump fills our barrel, kenny follows me around the yard with it attached to a tractor as i water. good times!

    • says

      Welcome, Lori. Nice to see you. The homemade ram-jet sounds like quite the contraption…I need it for uphill from the house, where the hoses just can’t really make it (too much uphill battle for the pump from 450 feet deep in the well to high above the backyard). If you leave on your tractor today, what month will you two get here? :)

      Welcome, Karen. I could not agree more with all that you say. Thank you for jumping in. It is astonishing how much damage has been done in the name of “progress” — now how do we get to a point where there is balance? A big topic.

      See you both soon.

  6. Karen M says

    My husband is the recycling king of my communities both at our home and our office. It is utterly amazing at how we often have more recycling than actual garbage for pick up. I agree with Rae about issues of autism, childhood allergies, etc. being the products of our polluted and chemical world. The more aware we become of these things and the more proactive we are, the healthier we and our chldren will be. We need to all do our parts.

  7. Diane WS says

    I know this post is from two years ago, but as Earth Day approaches again this year, I feel compelled to comment: It is so important to treat the Earth with kindness every day but a special day reminds folks. Thank you for bringing again to the fore.

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