Commentary/Opinion: What we do to the Earth we do to ourselves
I have a clear memory of the first Earth Day. It was April 22, 1970. I was in seventh grade, and rather than riding the bus to Hubbard Trail Junior High in Crete, Illinois, I walked to school, along with my bus mates, over 4 miles. It was an adventure, so unusual to be walking along the road to school with police cars escorting us.
The first Earth Day was perhaps one beginning of thinking about our planet differently. As a 12-year-old, I didn’t really get it. But in the 51 years since then, I have learned that what we do to the Earth we do to ourselves. She is us. As Indigenous peoples have always known, she is our mother. “Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ” is a Lakota saying used in sacred ceremonies meaning “All Are Related.” We are all connected. Central Virginia is revealing her beauty to us each day this April. And every April in our memory. April 22, 2021, is Earth Day again. Let’s honor her.
Climate change can feel like an overwhelming problem. What can I do beyond recycling, taking my own bags to the grocery store, using less fossil fuel, and eating less red meat? What if I shift my thinking? When I think in terms of my children and grandchildren, and all children, I feel protective of their future. What wouldn’t I do to be sure that the world they live in, long after I’m gone, is still beautiful and safe? What might I do to sustain the Earth I, and they, love?
As I look into my backyard at a spectacular weeping cherry tree, I’m reminded of 1976 when I studied in Japan. One of the great splendors of Japan, which they gifted to us as well, are the cherry blossoms. The cherry trees had their earliest peak bloom this year in 1,200 years of record keeping. The blossoms need a full month of chilly weather, and the winters are warming. If we don’t address this problem and take concrete action, which includes diversifying the cherry trees, in 100 years our grandchildren and great grandchildren will likely no longer witness this magical harbinger of spring. (NPR) That is not the future any of us want.
Scientists agree that the danger our earth is facing is formidable; they also agree that how we meet that danger will determine our future. There are simple things we can do, things that are nonpartisan. Support a price on carbon. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2021 () has been reintroduced into the House of Representatives by Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Florida. I know this can feel technical and complicated, but 2,600 economists have signed a statement supporting this approach of taking revenues and giving them out in dividends to households for reasons of equity and sustainability. Projections suggest that in just 12 years such a system would reduce carbon emissions by at least 40%. New studies indicate this bill will get us to net-zero by 2050.
Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) is a non-profit, nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change. It is a smart, pragmatic group. There are hundreds of chapters both nationally and internationally, active in 92% of congressional districts across the United States. Our local chapter currently has 350 members and a core group of over a dozen active volunteers. They make taking action easy and fun. Seriously. You can join. Check it out!
Or take some other action of your choosing – one concrete step, something new that you haven’t yet done – to celebrate our Earth this April 22.