First we spilled 180 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Now we’ve pumped more than three million gallons of highly radioactive water from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex into the Pacific Ocean less than a year later. All around the world, news keeps coming in of whales, dolphins, fish and, most recently, starfish, beaching themselves. Is it related? Who knows? If it isn’t, we have more to worry about than we realize.
Our oceans aren’t just dying. We’re killing them. If I were Gaia, I’d be quaking all over too — trying to shake myself free of the humans who are hurting me.
If only we put as much effort into saving the planet as we do into killing each other. But that won’t happen until the Earth can’t give us what we want. But for now? Dead fish? Who cares? Oily beaches? So what? Radioactive water evaporating into the clouds, and raining down upon us and into the water table and our drinking water? Who gives a rat’s … ?
Oh. Wait. Radioactive water? Um, OK, I’m listening. Until it’s time for “The Biggest Loser” to start. I have my priorities.
One of the human traits I abhor most is the disinterest in anything that doesn’t benefit us personally, following closely behind sheer, basic stupidity. Like being too stupid to recognize that our survival depends on our planet’s.
Selfish and stupid. Yup, that’s us in a nutshell.
Inborn traits notwithstanding, I propose a day for change: Earth Day, Friday, April 22. It’s traditionally just a day on the calendar we mostly ignore. Even Ground Hog Day gets more attention than the ground from which that sorry, bored, winter-lovin’ beastie is yanked.
But there’s still time to correct that. Let’s actually PLAN to celebrate Earth Day, like we do other holidays. How? An idea came to me while walking along Putah Creek the other morning. As always, I picked up litter along the way and threw it the trashcan at the end of the trail. At first, there was only a bottle here, a potato chip bag there. Then I came upon an area with a new bench, and litter was strewn everywhere. The really maddening thing is that about 30 feet away, just at the top of the trail, was a trashcan. Unbelievable.
So, I cleaned up after the pigs — literally an armload of plastic bottles and trash, and dumped it in the trashcan. Yes, it was gross and disgusting, and it leaked all over me, but it was the lesser of two evils. If I’d left it there, I’d be no better than the pigs.
I continued along, annoyed with humanity, and got an idea: I want to start a club. An invisible club, known only by the plastic bag scrunched in our pockets that we whip out and collect trash in as we walk along our favorite path, alley or parkway. It would be great if we did this on a regular basis, but that’s asking too much, I realize, so how about doing it for just one day: Earth Day.
If we plan right now, I’m convinced we could all manage to get a plastic bag into our coat pockets by April 22. On that day, we take a little walk and pick up trash. Those of us who want to take the celebration to the next level can start brainstorming now: What could we do, for just one day, to make the smallest carbon footprint possible?
Maybe we minimize our use of electricity and rely on available light from the sun: read a book instead of watch TV or have dinner by candlelight. Maybe we ditch our cars and ride a bike or walk to work that day, or carpool or telecommute if that’s not possible. If we must drive, maybe we park at the farthest parking space from the front door of the store or our office, rather than the closest, and walk a few extra steps at both ends of our trip.
Sure, these are miniscule things. But even a small change in behavior signifies a change in attitude. If you picked up that soda can in the gutter on Earth Day, you chose to do your part to take care of our one and only planet. Awareness itself is a change in attitude, and the fastest way to change at attitude is to change the behavior. It’s OK to start small. A small start is still a start.
This particular year, it’s serendipitous that Earth Day falls on Good Friday. The symbolism is exquisite. On Good Friday, Christians will observe the day Jesus was crucified. (Me, I’d have called it Really Bad Friday, but that’s just me.) Of course, the end of Jesus’ physical life made way for the miracle of his resurrection, celebrated on Easter Sunday.
Now, all those Easter eggs and bunnies and chicks? They were the ancients’ symbols of rebirth and new life as well. Over time, it’s all gotten mushed together. But the result is kind of sweet: Christian and pre-Christian beliefs co-existing in peace at Easter time. So, let’s take this mutual goodwill a step further and think of this Earth Day as Good Earth Day. Many will honor Our Father Who Art in Heaven that day. How about we also honor Our Mother Who Art the Earth?
In the spirit of harmonizing with the holy day of Good Friday, I came up with a parallel Good Earth Day prayer: “Our Mother who art the Earth, hallowed be thy ground. Thy Queendom’s wealth is life itself, in sea and on continents seven. Grow us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we correct our trespasses against you, and lead us not into devastation, but deliver us from ourselves. Amen.”
Can I get an “Amen”? Or at least a plastic bag into your pocket?