April 22nd was Earth Day, a time when the human race was urged to examine how it could modify its action faced with the degradation of the planet. Earth Day had a modest beginning in 1970 when U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin invited students to implement projects to sensitize their communities to the needs of the environment. Since then, the warnings from scientists have become more dire as our actions have brought us closer to a point of irreversibility.
But there is reason to be optimistic because we are changing our ways and becoming more engaged in our efforts to heal the earth. I can certainly see that in my grandchildren. Being green is now second nature to them.
However, when you make that comment to older folks, they are proud to point out that they were green before it became a fashionable modern-day virtue. I remember that my grandmother transformed the cotton sacs in which she bought flour to make her bread into sturdy tea towels. My mother who sewed a lot of our clothes kept all the remnants, and when there was enough she would braid them by hand and make beautiful rugs displaying an array of gorgeous colors. Braided rugs are still available of course, but they are now made by machine and to me lack the personal touch I remember so fondly.
In my mother’s day, little was thrown away. Things were reused, recycled. Of course, in those days life was different, many would argue simpler. But in the years of after-war posterity life changed. Like many of you, I remember a time when cars were long and pink and gas was selling for about 25 cents a gallon. So we fell in love with automobiles not thinking about their growing impact on the air we breathe. Fortunately, we are getting back to basics after decades of spending our resources without much thought to how it was affecting the environment, but a lot remains to be done.
I believe each of us should get involved in “greening” our world beyond the weekly recycling of household trash. We should be involved in our respective communities and pressure decision makers so that economic development does not come before environmental protection. We have to think like Gaylord Nelson did when he initiated Earth Day. Every day should Earth Day.