An Opinion Piece
The first celebration of Earth Day was April 22, 1970. I was 19 at the time and a freshman in college. The Vietnam War was raging and Richard Nixon was president. There was a draft by the military that all 18 and older boys had to register for. Hippies were everywhere and making a splash with anti-war protests and saving the environment. Earth Day that year was a recognition that we, as stewards of the planet, needed to take action specifically geared towards cleaning up pollutants and planting trees. I agreed with that philosophy then and still do today.
My epiphany came 16 years later one day while dog sledding on Bennett Lake in the Yukon Territory 50 miles west of Whitehorse. I was hauling a load of wood back to our camp. Looking over the landscape, which consisted of craggy mountains with a lake winding down the valley, I could have been struck by a bolt of lightning with the overwhelming feeling of wonder at how such magnificence could have been created just for my pleasure. I took a personal pledge that day to recognize every day as EARTH DAY.
Examining my life and how I could contribute to building a healthy environment led me to several changes that I could apply on a daily or weekly basis. We quit using plastic whenever possible. I started making sure my vehicle trips were as infrequent as possible. The most important lesson was “Don’t leave the responsibility of change up to the government.” Cleaning up and nurturing the environment is a personal challenge that can only happen when we realize that it is up to each of us to do our part. We are the consumers and can direct our habits to reflect our love of the planet that nourishes us all each and every day. By the way, it feels good when you practice conservation.