April is host to quite the range of federally recognized days, wouldn’t you say? I mean, in what other context do you start off the month with nationally accepted acts of mischievousness, committed in broad daylight and under the noses of co-workers, in-laws, neighbors, and pals? And then merely two weeks later the tables turn, punctuality, precision, and transparency being the order of the day so as to avoid consequences from the chief in-law of them all, Uncle Sam. By the end of the month, whole sectors of the nation are searching for painted eggs and returning to chocolate, meat, favorite TV shows, and preferred smartphone apps as their month of lent comes to a close. Phew.
Tucked into such a formidable list is the comparatively innocuous Earth Day. (Followed shortly thereafter by Arbor Day…on to what percentage of calendars does that one actually make it?) No money is owed, no threats of cotton-ball stuffed chocolates or buckets of water above your doorway color the day’s activities, no-one is dieing nor rising nor fingering ashes to your brow. No, not this day. Just a little compassion is all that is requested, if you can spare the thought and the moment, for the ground we walk on, the water we drink, the air we breathe.
Or is it? For just one day each year – April 22 - blue-green globes and swirling clouds are all the rage. ‘Re-duce, re-use, re-cycle’ is annually rejuvenated as the popular mantra; composting & tree-planting are temporarily accepted as buzzwords bandied about without a second thought. Yet all this gusto and emotion is just for one day? What about the other 364?
Please don’t be taken aback by my questions…I’m just wondering. Air, Water, Dirt…without these elements we would not survive, yet this basic biology is routinely overlooked. So what about trying to sustain the energy and momentum that is drummed up each April 22 and grow a year-round ethic?
The difficulty, it strikes me, is in the scale. Earth Day can quickly become a celebration fraught with global issues and overtones. I mean, how do you reasonably honor an entity with a 24,901.55mile girth without getting a bit, well, big for your britches? There is a certain glamour to international places, events, and environmental tragedies for they are potent in their overwhelming nature and scope. And yet it is difficult to live at this heightened level of global awareness. If we are to act with Earth Day in mind all year round, I think it must exhibited in our local lives. Let the global stage influence and inform us as we pick our way through daily life.
This takes ongoing commitment, yes. But the rewards are many, including the health & well-being of future generations and the survival of life as we know it. Feeling motivated?
So what can you do to let Earth Day live on? Start with your home: turn off lights when not in use, shut down all appliances and technologies at the end of the day, conserve water, turn down the heat (put on an extra sweater), buy the extra sweater at a second-hand shop, note down your patterns of consumption – then work to minimize them, consolidate errands to limit your driving needs…start a compost pile, turn the compost into a garden, keep plants on the windowsill…support local farmers through Local Foods Plymouth (www.localfoodsplymouth.org), check out the 2011 Local Goods Guide (email@example.com), patronize Plymouth Shop Local establishments; know what you buy, why you buy it, and where it’s coming from.
Step outside. Know the names of trees as you know the hills by sight, taste our mountain air with a deep breath, relish the seasons. Isn’t it worth preserving?
as published in North Country News