Earth Day, a vision of Senator Gaylord Nelson and inspired by the antiwar protests of the late 1960s, was first observed in 1970. We can celebrate many accomplishments in environmental protection over the past 42 years. In June, the United Nations will host Rio+20, The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Voluntary commitments include sustainable agriculture, food security, green jobs with social inclusion, sustainable cities and others. These are ambitious goals, and the conversation has evolved far beyond “keeping the earth green”.
There is still much work ahead, particularly in developing countries such as Haiti. NPR recently wrote of the lack of sanitation in Port-au-Prince, and as we know all too well, deforestation and inadequate food security are critical issues for the people. But even in Haiti, there are signs of revival of the environment. Trees are being planted, and green energy projects are moving forward.
Ultimately, conservation must occur on an individual level and begin here at home. Andrew Revkin’s DotEarth Blog in the New York Times today linked back to a previous article “On Outdoor Experience and Environmental Values” In the article, Richard Louv commented on the importance of experiencing nature as a conduit to developing a passion to conserve it. But this bit was intriguing—it is crucial to look beyond the abstract and connect conservation efforts to our immediate lives:
“Many environmentalist have a problem with the vision thing. We can’t see the forest for, well, the forest. By continually hammering on climate change or global warming — a challenge for sure, but abstract and not immediate to most people’s experience — we’ve disconnected from most people who have more immediate concerns; we’ve virtually stopped talking about the impacts of air and water pollution on their children’s health, the psychological damage all of us experience when nature around us is destroyed, and so on. Especially if you’re a parent, regardless of your politics, you tend to care about your kids’ health. In addition to bringing those topics back to the forefront, we can add a newer argument, which is about thriveability: by increasing contact with the natural world, especially within cities, we can enhance and enrich our children’s (and our) full use of the senses, cognitive development, and overall health and well-being. Such thinking can shift the conversation from denial and scarcity and to hope and abundance, from survival to thrival, from sustainability to thriveability. It would also expand the actions that young people and all of us could take. For example, for the sake of biodiversity and human happiness, conservation is no longer enough; now we must create nature — where we live, work, learn and play. Those actions not only serve our immediate needs, but might also have an impact on biodiversity and climate change, or at least attitudes about climate change. This approach suggests a very different vision of the future.”
We hope to remember to pursue generosity and meaningful connection to others as we engage with and protect our natural world, not only on Earth Day, but each and every day.