Saturday, April 29, 2017

Earth Day Week: Summary

Earth from Space with Stars

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey Flickr Page:

The old button from the Environmental Club days which I just happened to find on Earth Day! It is a little beat up (particularly the ends of the ribbon), but no worse for the wear, I think. And it is one of the few items that I have left from those days, so it carries a lot of great memories for me! Nothing Changes Until You Do!

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed."

~Mahatma Gandhi

"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."
~John F. Kennedy  

Okay, so, Earth Day has passed and now, so has Earth Day Week, or Earth Week. I have reached the end of my week-long with blog entries focusing on environmental themes and issues.

The issues are not always so clear, and the solutions may seem even less so. To borrow from George H. W. Bush who once suggested, rather paradoxically, during a debate with his opponent Michael Dukakis, that his arguments were as clear as Bar Harbor. Meaning it is not clear at all. That is often how solutions to complex problems may appear as well: very cloudy.

Here's the thing: these issues tend to be global, but people tend to think strictly locally. It is difficult to grasp the big picture, if you will.

After all, it might not seem like the end of the world to most locals if some condominium complex goes up, or if some golf course gets built. In my home town of West Milford, there were proposals to build both, all at once, right off of Echo Lake Road. The history teacher and adviser for the Environmental Club was an activist, and he knew the power of using kids to sway opinion. He rounded up some high schoolers, myself included, for the Town Council meeting for this proposed development, which was ultimately defeated.

Those who were in favor of the complex surely were bitter about the "environmental wackos" who prevented them from making a healthy profit, and making too much of a big deal about the detrimental effects.

And indeed, the world would not end had that complex been built. That is the way it would have been seen, and still likely is seen everywhere such development projects are proposed. It's just one thing, what's the big deal.

Here's the big deal: when we lose sight of how these kinds of things, multiplied by thousands and tens of thousands all around the world each year, multiplied by each year and each decade and, now indeed, each century, we get a serious and undeniable impact on our planet.

The words of former President Jimmy Carter, writing the Foreword for Heaven is Under our Feet, a book devoted to preserving Walden Woods, the land where Henry David Thoreau once lived for two years, and wrote his classic Walden. discussing the deceptive perception that environmental issues can be divided into "local" and "global." He sums it up quite well:

"The environmental challenges evident in Thoreau's era pale in comparison with the magnitude of global crises that confront us today. Perhaps the most sinister aspect of these crises is that they do not evolve "globally." Often they germinate as singular and sometimes "localized" environmental concerns - the death of a lake in the Adirondacks, the burning of an acre of tropical rain forest in Brazil, the contamination of a drinking water supply in Eastern Europe, an oil spill off the coast of Alaska, the extinction of an endangered species n Africa, or the leveling of an historical woodland near Walden Pond. The destructive impact of such disregard fr the welfare of our planet cannot be overstated; environmental issues cannot be divided into "global" and "local" sectors. As in Thoreau's day, ecological crises does not occur in several different worlds, but in the only one that all of us inhabit."

He goes on, but the next sentence to begin the new paragraph serves as a solid concluding point:

"So, we have come to a juncture in humanity's evolution, where we must call a halt to our uncontrolled assault on the environment."

He's absolutely right, and he was more right than most people realized during his years in the White House, as well.

Still, he was the leader of the land, and a powerful individual as such. That made him privy to all sorts of data and research and study teams that most of us cannot ourselves access. The internet may be a place where we can get a lot of information, but it is also known as a place of misinformation. It can be hard to know who to trust, and what information can be believed.

Environmental concerns are a serious problem, and the strains that our global culture is placing on the world's limited resources are tremendous. We need to stay informed and get involved, although just how we can do this can be, again, unclear.

So, what can just one person do?

Well, we can make a difference, and even a big difference, if and when we put our minds to it.

Take a look at this article about one man in the Netherlands who cleaned up an entire river on his way to work:

Man Cleans Up Entire River On His Way To Work published by Higher Perspective, April 25, 2015:

I know that some people would probably look at that, think that this was a nice, warmhearted and remarkable story but, somehow, it does not relate to them, to their lives. After all, the extent and level of the problems of environmental degradation the world over seems so overwhelming, that what possible difference could one person really make, other than maybe one guy in a small European country?

Well, this is where I bring out another common phrase among environmentalists:

Act Locally, Think Globally

Yes, you have surely seen and heard this before. But have you ever really thought about it? In truth, no, we cannot change the entire world for the better with a sweeping wave of some magic wand, and make things right.

But that certainly does not mean that we cannot make a difference, much less that we should not try to make a difference.

That man made a difference by cleaning one particular river in his neck of the woods. But what if we have more people like that all around the world. What if there was someone like that in your neck of the woods? What would you do? Would you join him or her?

You know, I go hiking fairly often, and sometimes, along my trips, I will pick up some of the litter that I find there. So, there is no use lying: each time that I see cans or trash anywhere, but especially well into some woods, it is hard not to feel depressed and defeated about it. Even here, in a small corner of our world where you can once again connect to the real world, you are reminded of the limitations of our global society, and the blatant disrespect for what is truly sacred, for what truly matter. Yes, this is the world of the community of life that has existed long before our global culture arrived, and which continues to exist despite all that we have done, and likely will continue to exist long after we are gone. Here, whatever walls we build to divide and segregate ourselves from others within our global society mean nothing. Globalization, nations and flags and corporations and competition mean nothing here. The only thing that matters in what we commonly refer to as the wilderness is survival, except for those of us who are just visiting for a relatively leisurely stroll (admittedly, I am among these).

But since we are part of this global society, we enter these realms that we refer to as wild merely as visitors, feeling ourselves separated from it. In some cases, surely, people feel superior to it.

The important thing to remember, however, is that we are not separate from it. We are one with nature, part and parcel. Indeed, as the Natives taught us, what we do to this Earth, we do to ourselves. That in itself might not be really encouraging, since we see people mistreating people throughout known history, right up to the present. Anyone who has ever watched the news or read a newspaper will know that. So, is it really all that surprising that our global culture would treat the Earth with such a lack of respect as they treat one another?

If we are ever to make real progress in this world, and make it the kind of place that we all want to live in, then we must remain active in trying to make it so, even if this is on our own, small level.

The first thing that we need to do, is to get informed and stay informed. Then, we need to do something about it, in whatever way we can think to do it.

What we need to do has been explained before, and I will borrow the two phrases that I already borrowed from in this, and other, blog entries as the concluding point for this Earth Day Week series.

Think Globally, Act Locally

and, of course, remember:

Nothing Changes Until You Do

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