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Celebrate Earth Day’s 40th Anniversary

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By Crystal Wakoa

Forty years ago, people from all walks of life took to the streets to protest the Vietnam War. There was a lot of anger and outrage, as well as idealism. People wanted a more peaceful world. They also wanted to swim in their rivers again, some of which were so polluted they were on fire. A Senator from Wisconsin named Gaylord Nelson piggy-backed environmental concerns on that wellspring of anti-war discontent, organizing the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. The turnout was beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. Earth Day 1970 was a monumental, grassroots success, jump-starting our country’s environmental movement.

Washington responded by creating the Environmental Protection Agency. Congress passed the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. DDT was banned. We took the lead out of gasoline. People living in cities breathed cleaner air, and the rivers stopped burning.

This is an important story in our county’s history. It demonstrates that when conditions get bad enough, people rise up. And when enough people rise up together, change occurs.

I don’t know when people will rise up together again to demand a less polluted world. We have so many deaths from cancer, so many dead zones in our bays and oceans. So many toxic chemicals permeate our lives. So many species are imperiled. Our fresh water is being squandered at an alarming rate. Most scientists agree that global climate change is our greatest and most pressing threat to the continuation of life as we know it. Washington does not seem to be solving these problems. And conditions are not bad enough yet for people to rise up.

It is hard to know what to do, but it would be negligent to do nothing.

This Earth Day, renew your commitment to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Compost your organic waste. Buy used stuff instead of new. Plant a flower or a tree or a vegetable garden. Buy organic and locally grown food. Stay home. Open your windows.

This Earth Day, call your Senators and Congressmen in Washington. Tell them to make global climate change legislation a top priority. Call your State Representative. Tell him/her that you want greater protection for Florida’s springs.

This Earth Day, don’t take Earth for granted. Go outside to your yard or garden, to a favorite park or river or bay. Let go of your worries and appreciate the good fortune of living in beautiful North Florida in April. Live in the present moment. Practice gratitude for your life and enjoy the sacred Earth, knowing your life and Earth are inextricably bound together.

 

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