EARTH 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?