Thoughts On Earth Day
While every day is Earth Day at Biohabitats, the arrival of April 22 evokes very personal sentiments among many of our team members. Senior ecologist Laura Backus shares memories of the very first Earth Day. Accounting assistant Tiffany Koerner steps away from her spreadsheets for a minute to reflect on the significance of the day. And senior ecologist (and humorist) Bill Young tells how he plans to barrel into his an Earth Day celebration in his home town.
By Laura Backus, Senior Ecologist, Southern Rocky Mountain Bioregion Office
As my spring schedule fills with a stream bank planting project on the Southern Ute Reservation, figuring out the best native species to plant in Idaho as well as Wildlands Restoration Volunteers commitments to explore cloud forest restoration in Latin America, help train our new crop of crew leaders, and arrange a Russian-olive pull, I think back to the first Earth Day in 1970.
I was a psychology student at Ohio State University, as yet untouched by the passionate anti-war protests soon to erupt on Ohio campuses. I had never heard the word “ecology” or considered that how we live makes a difference to the green forests covering the Hocking Hills to the south. Despite my childhood delight in hiking up shallow streams looking for crayfish, my biology courses were simply prerequisites to graduation. Suddenly on April 24th, Earth Day activities filled the campus Oval with eager people handing out information on the seriousness of human impacts to the planet. Taken with this new idea that the earth needs human care, I went to rallies, attended workshops, and wore an Earth Day pin.
Although I was to spend the next two decades working office jobs, racing bikes, and raising a family, before making the transition to ecologist, I can see in retrospect how the fresh ideas of the first Earth Day opened my awareness to our responsibility to care for our beautiful and complex earth, the foundation of life forms in vast numbers and astonishing complexity.
My earth day pin, now missing from my box of 70s memorabilia such as “Surely” (for Shirley Chisholm, the first woman to make a serious run for the presidency) is still cherished in my memory.
By Bill Young, Senior Ecologist
I love my wife; I really do. But sometimes I have to work double hard to make up for her environmental unconsciousness. You would think, married to a card-carrying tree hugger, she would fall in line and recycle, wash clothes with earth friendly products, and buy organic. Most of the time, I guess, she does, but way too many times I have fished though the garbage bin in our kitchen to remove plastic bottles and even paper, and put them in the recycling bins.
To her credit, she keeps the thermostat down pretty low in winter. My two kids and I have adapted to wearing sweatshirts around the house, and we use plenty of blankets. I, alone, am the “leftovers king” thereby closing that loop.
We bought a Toyota Prius in 2003, and when she saw that car she thought I had gone off the deep end (“It looks like a moon beam!”). She almost refused to get in. But, to my delight, she did, and playing on the radio was our song! She just looked at me and said, “You win; we will buy this car.” Now, she steals the Prius whenever she can. Our town, Point Pleasant, NJ, is a little seaside town on the Jersey shore. It gets invaded every weekend in the summer with tourists. We try to spend the entire summer weekend on our bikes, riding to the beach with baskets loaded. We have gotten close, but have not gone car-less for an entire weekend.
Earth Day is truly one of my favorite days. One day is not enough, but the festive atmosphere makes it such a positive message for the general public. It is a day when the environment is cool. And the public will turn out in droves for Earth Day events. I always try to give a lecture, or man a table for the Native Plant Society of New Jersey. I like to give away seedlings, even if half of them will not survive a month, because it is symbolic to plant and tree. It raises consciousness, and makes people feel they are doing something helpful.
This year, I am manning a table at my hometown Earth Day celebration. It is an all day event, taking up the entire community park. There will be music and prizes, and the town shows up en masse. Over 43 vendors and tables will be there. I intend to bring a rain barrel, and illustrate to kids how, if they hook it up to the downspout, they can improve life for fish and reducing flooding and erosion. I am trying to get my hands on old waste barrels, and have the kids paint them, so their parents will have to use them at home (how do you turn down your kid’s artwork?). I will have a photo display of native plants, and answer questions to get homeowners to replace non-natives with natives. I try not to preach, but instead to gently inform, knowing in their hearts, people want to do the right thing. I will hit up my friend Don Knezick (of Pinelands Nursery) for free plants to give away. I also want to build a raingarden exhibit, because that is fun and easy to do. The idea is to give regular people simple steps to improve their impact on this beautiful, yet fragile, planet.
Earth Day is every day, my brothers and sisters. We in the environmental field have a gift, and it is called knowledge, and Earth Day is one day to share it with those less knowledgeable.
By Tiffany Koerner, Accounting Assistant
For years, Earth Day has been a renowned celebration to promote awareness about environmental concerns and to share appreciation for our environment. Since the environmental movement in the 1970s, April 22nd’s Earth Day has united individuals of varying demographics for a common goal — conserving and sustaining our environment.
From a financial perspective, I view Earth Day as both an integral part of environmental citizenship and an essential aspect of intelligent financial decisions in today’s turbulent economy. If our society, as a whole, acted preemptively in preserving our environment rather than reacting to the deterioration of our environment, citizens could save money while catering to their environmental conscience. American citizens, in particular, must strive to preserve the world’s dwindling natural resources; after all, America is home to only five percent of the world’s population but consumes twenty-five percent of its natural resources. If we are diligent in conserving our environment and its natural resources, we will subsequently reduce our cost of living and increase our quality of life.
Although Earth Day is a one-day celebration, it represents far more than just twenty-four hours of environmental citizenship. It encourages us, as the world’s inhabitants, to continually preserve, respect, and appreciate our environment through our everyday decisions. It invokes a sense of pride in our environment. Most importantly, it conveys an urgency to maintain a healthy environment for future generations.
Winners of Biohabitats 4th Annual Earth Day Expressions Contest
Congratulations to our young Earth Day Expressions Contest winners. Thank you for sharing your artwork with us and showing us how you see yourselves as a part of nature!
Beyond Earth Day: Fulfilling the Promise by Robert F., Jr. Kennedy (Foreword), Gaylord Nelson, Susan Campbell, Paul A. Wozniak, Paul R. Wozniak. University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (October 4, 2002).
Earth edited by James F. Luhr, DK Publishing and the Smithsonian Institution (October 2003)
Good News for a Change: How Everyday People are Helping the Planet by David T. Suzuki and Holly Dressel. Greystone Books (2003)
Life in the Balance: Companion to the Audubon Television Specials by David Rains Wallace. (1987)
One Makes the Difference: Inspiring Actions that Change Our World by Julia Butterfly Hill. (2002)
Silent Spring (40th Anniversary Edition) by Rachel Carson, Mariner Books (October 2002)
The Official Earth Day Guide To Planet Repair by Dennis Hayes, Island Press (February 2000)
The Wild Out Your Window: Exploring Nature Near at Hand by Sy Montgomery, (2002).
Recommended Reading for Children
The Earth and I by Paul Asch, Gulliver Green (September 1994)
Earth Day Birthday by Pattie Schnetzler. Illustrated by Chad Wallace, Dawn Publications (February 2004)
Earth Day – Horay! By Stuart J. Murphy. Illustrated by Renee Andriani. HarperTrophy (January 2004)
The Kingfisher Young People’s Book of Planet Earth by Martin Redfern, 1999. 550 REDFERN
Let’s Celebrate Earth Day by Connie and Peter Roop. Illustrated by Gwen Connelly. Millbrook Press (February 2001)
Our Earth by Ann Rockwell, Voyager Books (March 2000)
Sharing Nature with Children: the Classic Parents’ and Teachers’ Nature Awareness Guidebook by Joseph Cornell (1998)
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel), Random House Books for Young Readers (August 1971)
Recommended Sites & Links
International Earth Day for information pertaining to the vernal equinox Earth Day.