As a resident of Norwalk and citizen of planet earth, I recall the first “Earth Day” in 1970 when I was in 7th grade. It was an exciting celebration in my hometown of Ithaca, NY, with banners and girls with flower wreaths in their hair, a whole day devoted to nature, sunshine, and peace. It was a time when our classrooms had posters that said, “War is not healthy for children and other living things” and “Give peace a chance,” and we regularly saw public service announcements on TV such as the crying Indian who sees litter on his (former) lands. It was an era when the fear and possibility of all-out nuclear war, as well as pollution and smog, roused young people to demand change, to become more in tune with nature, and to speak up for earth justice.
For all the attention the plight of the earth received back then, today our “common home”—our planet—is in worse shape than it was all those years ago, and so much for “Earth Day” being of importance. Every day is Earth Day, if you think about it. What can we do about the health of our planet and its inhabitants in the face of an ever-growing population, insatiable development, and demand for resources? See below for some recommendations.
I’m glad to be a member of the nature committee at Norwalk’s Oak Hills Park, as we try to protect and provide good stewardship of the protected nature areas we have established there. The Norwalk community has a lovely resource in the Park’s low-impact 1.5 mile woodland trail where we hosted a Winter Trail Walk this past February, and will host events such an upcoming Bird Watching Trail Walk on May 12 and our annual trail walk for National Trails Day on June 2.
The events at Oak Hills Park are free and we welcome all in our community to visit, “treading lightly upon the earth” through quiet events that respect our area’s wildlife. The health of our environment is what keeps inhabitants (us) healthy, too. As Pope Francis stated in his 2015 encyclical letter on Laudato Si: On The Care of Our Common Home, “Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.”
What can we do in our daily lives to bring balance to our environment? Caring for creation can seem like such a huge problem. Here are a few recommendations:
- Water—clean water—is getting more scarce. Be careful how much water you are using and don’t waste it. Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth or soaping up dishes, and use only for rinsing. Washing your car and watering your lawn are big usages of this precious resource—try to cut back on watering so much. Take shorter showers.
- Modern lifestyle choices affect our planet’s health. Driving instead of walking, biking, or driving electric cars continues to pollute, and the refining and transport of oil comes at a high cost in terms of environmental damage. Jet travel is one of the biggest causes of air pollution, so conserve on trips that involve planes. Look into getting an electric car.
- Buildings and homes consume massive amounts of energy to heat and cool (not to mention all those large-screen TVs), and are the largest source of pollution. Animal agriculture is also a huge problem, using vast amounts of water and land, causing deforestation and ground water pollution, as well as methane pollution in the air. Go vegetarian and wake up to the ills of factory farming.
- Consumerism is a way of life that is unsustainable. The earth does not currently have enough resources for all the “stuff” we keep trying to buy and sell to each other. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” Examine our current economic system and how it impacts our planet.
- Let part of your yard “go native.” Stop mowing, stop watering (stop polluting and wasting resources) and allow native plants to flourish for wildlife to thrive. Suburbia is not a natural landscape and it is to your credit to let your yard become a habitat. My husband and I have what we call a “yarden,” picking and eating our own dandelions and purslane in summer salads, and making clover tea, from our own yard.
- Act and speak up for earth justice. Be aware of how we all contribute daily to pollution and the ways in which we indulge, wasting resources that in some areas of the world are nonexistent (clean water and air). Become aware of how our human activities impact the health of Planet Earth.
As we acknowledge “Earth Day” once again, can you find a few moments each day to be reminded to care for our common home for not only your own good, but for the good of all who live upon this earth, our ONLY home.