April 22nd is Earth Day, a day set aside out of 365, to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s environment. There are celebrations around the world to honor the planet and some communities take the entire week to pay tribute and educate folks how to take care of the old gal. Earth Day started back in 1970, which means that it turns 40. Wow. 40 years old. A tough time in anyone’s life (unless you’re Jennifer Lopez, I hear).
As far as special days go, I love the fact that once-a-year we set aside some calendar time to honor stuff. You know, like giving Moms and Dads their own day, even if it’s not really a full 24-Jack-Bauer-hours day (more like a little time set aside in the morning or 90 minutes in a crowded mid-day restaurant). But when it comes to the earth, I sort of think the old girl is entitled to more than just one day to be pampered. She deserves more respect. Age earns you that right. And, no matter what your personal beliefs are as to exactly how old the earth really is – I think we can all agree on this: she is O.L.D. Once you pass a couple of thousand years, I believe you can honestly look in the mirror and say, “Oh, yeah. THAT… is old, right there.” Cracks, fissures and uncontrollable (possibly embarrassing) moments of volcanic activity (in-continent-ce, if you will). The old lady deserves some respect and I think she should have more than a day of attention.
Whenever I speak to school kids about water conservation and preservation I often pose the question, “If a visitor came to your house and accidently dropped a bunch of papers on the living room floor, what would you do?” The answers range from telling the person to just leave them there for someone else to pick up; telling the person pick up their mess and just watching them do so; not saying anything and hoping someone else will clean up and helping the person clean up (you’re not supposed to have favorites, but those kids are my favorites).
After posing the living room scenario, I ask the kids to imagine walking out of their now clean living room and outside onto a not-so-clean city street. Our home is more than that living room. Our home is our body situated inside of a dwelling on a street in a town in a state on a continent in an ocean on a planet. Our accountability runs a liiiiitle bit bigger than we think it does. Home is more than the place we sleep at night and where we keep our stuff. Earth is our home, too.
Kids like to say, “How I am supposed to take care of the planet? I can barely keep my room clean.” I tell them that it’s best to tackle a job in small steps. Remember that phrase that gets bobbled about now and again, know the one that tells you to act locally and think globally? Well, taking care of earth starts that way, too. Baby steps, people. Baby steps. First step -- start by picking up your own trash and putting it in an appropriate (trash/recycle) container. Then, if you see someone else’s trash on your way, it’s just an extra little step to pick that up and deal with it. After that, maybe take an even bigger step and check with your local City Hall or Chamber of Commerce to see if there are any organized clean-up efforts in your community and get involved. Before you know it, you might be inspired to start your own organized event in your area! [There are suggestions at www.missleau.com on how to do so.]
No matter what your level of involvement on Earth Day, take a moment to thank the old lady for all she’s done (and continues to do) for you. No need to buy candy or flowers, but try to treat her sweetly and think about how you can take care of her in the days to come.