Sunday, March 27, 2011

Another Earth Day approaching for Rochester, NY and we still don’t get it


The whole point, I would argue, of Earth day is to remind folks that we are creatures still dependent on a healthy environment—no matter how important we think other things are. In this regard, there are many Earth Day events coming up in Rochester, NY, and I hope you’ll get out and attend one of them. Find out who’s doing what and why. Check Calendar to get a complete listing of all Earth Day events in our area.

This year, like many past years, much is being done to attract a wide diversity of folks because we all have a direct link to our environment. But it’s not easy. Many, far too many, wouldn’t dream of attending an Earth Day event. It’s not on their radar. It’s not their ‘thing’ as we used to say in the sixties. Or they’re too busy, they don’t think they care, they don’t believe our environment is in trouble, or they think they do know all about it and think it’s all out of their hands. It’s not.

Believe it or not, it’s not somehow written into the great scheme of things that we have to drive ourselves and every other living thing on this planet into extinction. We can and must do something to stop the steady march into the collapse that pollution and our other environmental issues portend.

But the proportionally small numbers of folks who attend to our environment through their advocacy, jobs, official roles, or interests are not enough. Because our planet is warming (our atmosphere is over 390ppm CO2 when it should be lower than 350ppm CO2) and we are losing species at a rate consistent with the five other major extinction events (except this time we are the cause), the work of a few will not make the wholesale changes needed to put us on a sustainable path.

This past year’s BP Oil Spill, the Massey mine accident, and the present Japanese nuclear disaster must remind even the most indifferent soul that the things that man does to our environment don’t always go as planned. And when things do go wrong, many, many lives get disrupted or worse. Through our neglect, our hubris, and our rush for unfettered riches, we have put our existence and our environment on such a precarious path that the slightest error in technology or judgment wreaks unimaginable havoc. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Unlike what transpires in the entertainment world, there will be no superheroes to solve our serious environmental problems. In those make-believe worlds, disasters seem to boil down to simple heroic efforts to save humanity from evil, from aliens, from whatever. Well, our environmental problems are an entirely different sort of disaster than those conjured up by Hollywood. In most cases, environmental catastrophes are years, decades, maybe even centuries in the making. They take so long to occur, accumulating bit by bit, that we don’t see the collapse happening until it’s way too late to fix it. There’s no way you can ratchet down our atmosphere’s temperature when we pass a tipping point. We have to prevent disasters, instead of thinking we can do whatever we want and can then fix them in the nick of time.

The conundrum for the environmental community is how to make every day Earth Day. For what we don’t get is that little if nothing will remain of our lives, our hopes, and our dreams when our environment collapses. You cannot marginalize, sideline, or forget about the very ground under your feet. We, everyone, have a moral obligation to the generations that follow us to leave them a healthy environment--and we are not anywhere near accomplishing that.

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