What we call a “brown out” today, is significantly different from declared “brown outs” when I was a kid. Days like this, pictured above, were our “brown outs”. The skyline often took on a dense yellow/brown tinge. The air, saturated with visible particulates and pollutants, was often deemed unsafe to play outside. Our eyes would tear up and our lungs would burn and “squeak” with each breath. Often the air we were inhaling had a unique smell and taste. From late Spring to early Fall this was the “norm”. We had no choice but to live with it. The ability to do anything was beyond our influence or control. Or so we thought.
If one examines the timeline of what is now a global phenomenon, Earth Day is still in its infancy. Perceived inherent values and norms of how we interact with, and protect our environment, is still a relatively new concept. I mean, 49 years is not that long for the lives of many, especially for our planet. Most of today’s youth and young adults have not experienced the way things “were”, environmentally. They are not aware of how the ever- present concept and widely growing industry of environmental consciousness has evolved. It is still evolving.
In my youth, the thought that an individual has an impact on, and responsibility for, the shadow they cast upon their environment, was virtually unheard of. Those working in our State and National Parks and forests, and “Militant” fringe groups, championed conscious and pointed environmentalism. The idea or concept of environmentalism and even conservation was abdicated to the “professionals”. The average person chalked up the degradation of the air, earth and waters as byproducts of “progress”. It was a “ho hum”, “What can we do about it?”, attitude, for most people.
Enter Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. He had other ideas, and thought that we all should and DO have a voice. With a “simple” idea, of a nation-wide, environmental “teach-in”, Nelson created the first ever Earth Day, April 22 1970. And, in an excerpt from his inaugural Earth Day speech he gave in Denver Colorado he said,
“Our goal is an environment of decency, quality, and mutual respect for all other human creatures and for all living creatures. The battle to restore a proper relationship between man, his environment, and other living creatures will require a long, sustained, political, moral, ethical and financial commitment — far beyond any effort made before.”
With that, Nelson heralded what has become an annual call to awareness. It is the siren call for active participation in the care and maintenance of our third rock from the sun. As such, the month of April has become an environmental “holiday” of sorts, world-wide. There is no mistaking that Earth Day has taken on a life of its own. It has served to spur growing public and political awareness, as to how we interact with each other and use our natural resources. While I actively practice the principles of Leave No Trace whilst on outdoor excursions, I can’t help but ask myself how can I apply those outdoor concepts to my “indoor” life. How can I reduce my environmental “foot print”, making every day, “Earth Day”. As Earth Day approaches, I would challenge each of us to ask that same question.
That being said, you are welcome to join Great Opportunities as it celebrates Earth Day, and encourages GO’s participants to ponder their environmental responsibilities, during their annual community clean-up, on Saturday April 27th, 2019. Check out Great Opportunities “Events” page or visit GO’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/greatopportunities for more information.