I recently read an obituary of a woman in her late 90’s who passed away from the coronavirus. Her older sister passed away 102 years ago during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic! Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Earth Day 2020 falls in the same year that we are struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic. We have been asked to social distance, shelter in place, and stay home to save lives. Those natural places we move in to really “feel the earth”, such as parks and open spaces, are also off limits.
I remember the first Earth Day in 1970 because my mom was so very excited. She was born and raised on a farm and had a true love for the earth. My mom started recycling/reusing in our home before many people even knew what it meant. She had our family washing out and smashing tin cans and saving and reusing plastic bags and twist ties. Mom loved the “50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth” book (now back in print:) and worked to save the earth every day of her life!
Recycling has been around for thousands of years because prior to the industrial age goods could not be made quickly and cheaply enough, so households practiced recycling in some fashion. Mass production of the industrial age produced the need for large-scale recycling. As products began to be produced and purchased cheaply, we now have a culture of disposable goods that has created major environmental problems. One of the primary reasons for recycling is to reduce the amount of garbage sent to landfills. Recycling efforts in the United States divert close to 32 percent (60 million tons) of waste away from landfills every year. We have been successful recycling paper, glass, aluminum and steel, however plastics are a serious problem because they are cheap to produce and not biodegradable. Plastic trash is littering the land, rivers and oceans. Microplastics are found in fish harvested from the ocean! Reusing an object reduces pollution and waste which makes it a much more sustainable process.
National Geographic Magazine was delivered to our home every month and when I became an adult, my mom purchased it for my family as a gift. And it is truly a gift! The April 2020 edition is the first ever flip issue to look at enviromental milestones of the last 50 years and look forward to what our descendants might inhabit on Earth Day’s 100th anniversary.
Two scenarios emerge:
The optimist’s guide…
And the pessimist’s guide…
Recycling gives us a false sense of security, also causes an environmental impact and enables over consumption. The ultimate solution is: buy less stuff and reuse what you have. Instead of shopping for and consuming “more stuff”, why not just spend time in your yard/on your deck maybe planting and tending to a garden or walking with your children/pets in the great outdoors!
These past weeks of confinement have led to a massive drop in emissions across the globe and this can help scientists understand exactly how much climate change is man-made. We are all connected on this earth and I am an optimist who believes we can reverse climate change. I know we can leave a better world for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.