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|Earth Day, 1970|
If your car ran out of gas, would you simply scrap it and buy a new one? If you had a bag of garbage, would you dump it out on your living room floor? If you realized that your roof was leaking, would you just ignore it?
We really face these choices, but on a far greater scale. We face them with regard to how we treat the planet we live on and how we use the fantastic — but limited — resources it provides.
April 22, 2013 is Earth Day. It’s a day when we reflect on the challenges our shared home is facing, and hopefully take action to correct them. Is Earth Day really necessary?
Remember Hurricane Sandy that struck the Caribbean and the U.S. east coast late last year? How about the droughts that plagued Africa, the flooding that struck Australia, and the droughts and floods that overwhelmed Europe? Worldwide, superstorms and extreme weather have become the “new normal.” Arctic sea ice reached a record low last September. Whether there’s a proven link between these events and human activities or not, it’s obvious we’re in trouble.
But climate change isn’t our only concern.
The Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011 is still damaging the health of Japanese citizens and there’s evidence radiation may have reached as far as Hawaii, Canada, and the U.S. west coast. Coal-fired power plants, oil spills, and automobile exhaust continue to poison our environment, along with overused pesticides, plastics, and electronic waste.
What can we do? Start with the three Rs — Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Whenever you can, instead of driving your car, take public transportation, ride a bike, or walk. Replace your gas-guzzling mini-van or SUV with a fuel-efficient hybrid or, better yet, an electric car.
Avoid over-packaged prepared foods; the packaging ends up in landfills and the food itself is usually less healthy than fresh food. Grow some of your own food; even a small garden can supply you with fresh fruits and vegetables to supplement your diet. Use re-usable shopping bags made of cloth instead of disposable plastic shopping bags. Skip the bottled water in throw-away plastic bottles; use your own re-usable bottles instead.
Reduce your electric bill and the load on the utility grid by turning off unused lights and unplugging instant-on devices like televisions that draw power even when they’re off. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with more efficient and longer lasting LED lamps. Use renewable power, either by installing your own solar panels or wind turbines, or by buying your electricity from a utility that favors renewable sources.
Keep your e-waste — old computers, cell phones, and such — out of landfills; take them to an approved recycling facility instead. Buy products made of recycled materials — paper, plastic, glass, and metal — whenever possible.
Plant a tree, an integral part of the Earth’s respiratory system.
You may think that none of these steps will really make a difference. And the fact is, the real obstacle we’re facing isn’t one of technology, but of human greed and selfishness. Until that is overcome, we’ll never have the clean, healthy planet we long for. But in the meantime, we can do our part to make our world a better place, one small step at a time.