Earth Day came and went last week.
Students were out in force on April 21 – garbage bags and plastic gloves at hand – ready to pick up litter and other trash on our streets and in Centennial Park. For many, it was likely just a day to skip school and play in the sunshine. For others, the clean-up was just as important as reading, writing and arithmetic.
The students were joined in 100 Mile House by members of the Cedar Crest Society and individuals and families wanting to do their part. Around the world, more than 190 countries, are engaged, and more than one billion individuals mobilized for action every Earth Day.
It’s heartening to see that even in a pandemic, we continue to find ways to promote these events, to engage young people in caring for our planet. It’s been 51 years since Earth Day first became a thing, brought about by an emerging public consciousness about the planet amid environmental issues like increased air pollution and massive consumption of fossil fuels in the 1960s.
We’ve made a lot of strides since then. Today, reduce, reuse, recycle have become a mantra for many people in our region and across B.C. and are now important components of environmental wellness. The grassroots initiative gave rise to the establishment of environmental protection agencies, Clean Air and Clean Water acts. Public demand for environmental safeguards grew in the second half of the 20th century, and those demands have grown stronger in recent years.
Yet while we should be lauded for those measures to protect our Earth, we must temper that enthusiasm with the fact that we also continue to destroy it. It’s disappointing that we even have to hold clean-up days – that people are still willing to toss their garbage on the streets, dump it in the forests, or pollute our oceans and airsheds without a thought to what it might mean to Mother Earth.
This year, the Earth Day event focused on the irony of Earth Day, featuring photos of animals cleaning up their polluted environments themselves. The tagline on the website reads: “Luckily the animals are here to pick up after us.”
Indeed. We owe it to the other species on our planet to do our part to protect it. We can take our small steps in our own homes. We can plant native plants for pollinators like bees and butterflies. Drive less and walk more. Reconnect with nature whenever we get the chance because we’re all in it together.
While it’s great we have a specific day to dedicate to cleaning up our communities, Earth Day should be celebrated every day of every week.
It’s the only planet we have – at least right now – so it’s our duty to make it last.