April 22, 1970 – April 22, 2010: Love Your Mother

If memory serves me correctly, forty years ago on April 22nd it was a lovely spring day in Pittsburgh. I was a junior in college, and because it was a Wednesday (no, my memory isn’t that good, a quick check of the Internet gave me this information), I was walking across campus to go to one or another of my classes. Jeans and t-shirts were the uniform and long hair was the norm. Our “senior fence,” a sort of free-form  message board in the center of campus, bore freshly painted anti-war slogans and Vietnam was never far from our consciousness. So the sight of groups of people on the lawn in front of our Fine Arts Building and the sound of music did not surprise me, as protests seemed to pop up at a moment’s notice and the various factions on campus always seemed to be at odds with one another over something. But closer inspection revealed something quite unexpected: “We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon…” There was Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s anthem ringing in the air through a pair of badly overworked speakers, and strung between two poles was a giant sign proclaiming “Earth Day, March 22, 1970.” There were brochures and leaflets, a potted plant or two  and lots of earnest faces imploring us to take better care of Mother Earth than we had been and offering us numerous ways to get started. As I recall, I gave it all a quick passing glance as I hurried on to class. Earth Day would have to wait, I had a class to get to and I couldn’t be late.

And now, here we are, 40 years later (40 years – how can that even be possible?!) And we all know so much more, and we all know so much less. We’re in another war, corporate America still makes headline-grabbing news, and even though we have done countless things to attempt to aide and protect the environment, much of our natural world appears to be in worse shape than ever. Global warming, images of polar bears drowning in the Arctic seas, rain forests decimated for profit, dying coral reefs and extreme weather worldwide seem to be the new normal. Happy Earth Day, indeed.

But I continue to have hope. That small girl that I was in Ohio, the girl who loved animals and loved to camp and spent hours lying in the grass looking up at the sky, the stars and the moon, has morphed into the woman who I am today: an involved, informed, and verbal (some would say too much so…) individual who is not afraid to state her position and make her case for various environmental issues. I remember reading a few years back about the concept of “compassion fatigue” and how it led otherwise well-meaning people to become so overwhelmed by the multitude of organizations and causes appealing to them for help that they – these same people who could be potential volunteers and donors – would end up doing nothing. The article went on to say that it was so important to listen to that little voice inside of you, to really focus on what area of concern it was that resonated the strongest for you. And that was where you should devote your time or your money or your expertise. There will always be so many more worthwhile areas of concern than any one of us can ever hope to address in a meaningful way. And we shouldn’t try to undertake that as a personal goal. But by zeroing in on that one thing that makes you smile when you have finished a day as a volunteer, or made a contribution to some organization where you know that it is going to make a difference, or mentored someone, or shared your knowledge of a particular subject with a larger audience, then you’re on the right track.

I love that we are paying more attention to what we eat and how and where it is grown. Urban gardens bring better nutrition to all of us living in cities and take advantage of the knowledge of the elders in our communities who may be only one or two generations away from life in the country or on a farm. And we are finally focusing more clearly on our treatment of food-producing animals and their impact on the larger environment as a whole. Cleaner water, more efficient automobiles, alternative energy sources and recycling are now all components of our daily lives. Every day we gain more and more protection for the forests and the oceans and the very air that we breathe. But so much more remains to be done. In this fight for the health of Mother Earth, there are major international players who appear to have very different items of importance on their agendas. We have to continue our vigilance, since we absolutely won’t get a “do-over” on this one.

So here’s what I think and what I plan to do this Thursday on Earth Day. I’m going to look at the causes that I am passionate about, the organizations to whom I contribute – either with my time, my expertise, or my checkbook – and I am going to push myself a little bit harder to do a little bit more. To strengthen my resolve. To do better.

After all, this is my planet, And I love my Mother Earth.

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Date: Monday, 19. April 2010 9:55
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