It was a heady time. Fifty years ago, at age twenty-five, while living on an idyllic island in Puget Sound, I participated in the first-ever “Earth Day.” According to news reports, I was one of twenty million Americans who “took to the streets” to demand a clean, healthy environment.
In my case, it was more of a stroll down a tree-lined, country road with a flock of Vashon Island high school students and staff. The mood was benignly hopeful, unlike other demonstrations of that era. If nothing else, my generation was good at showing up. Memories also include marching shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of Vietnam war protestors through downtown Seattle as the unified chant, “Peace Now!” reverberated amongst sky scrapers and through our souls.
Somehow in the midst of that chaotic time, our nation found the political will to pass stunning legislation: Clean Water Act, Occupational Health and Safety Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and many more, including fuel economy standards for cars. All of it helped, but not enough, not in the face of climate crisis.
Where is our political will now? As I reflect on these fifty years in my own life, I’m contrite to admit: I’ve not made a single, personal sacrifice on behalf of Mother Earth. Oh, yeah. I’ve done my share of recycling. I’ve reported on various environmental issues, tried to be a conscientious consumer, considered fuel mileage when purchasing vehicles, cut back on meat in my diet. But by no stretch of the imagination could I describe any of that as sacrificial. Nothing like the sacrifices our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be forced to make.
I approach this fiftieth anniversary with nostalgia and remorse. And yet, the hope and determination of my twenty-five-year-old self lingers. I dare to be hopeful because the solution to climate crisis is not dependent on my solitary actions, but on our communal actions. All of us as a people. If I’m the weakest link in the chain, hey! I think I’m at least strong enough to hold it together. So are you.
Not now, you might answer. Not while we have a corona virus, shut-downs and economic disruption to contend with. Yes, exactly now, when many of us have been given time away from our normal activities and stresses. Now we have time to consider. Now we have time to be inspired, to renew hope.
Take just five minutes to hear how a young cellist combined science and music to illustrate a century-long pattern of climate warming. Take an hour for a multi-faith Earth Day worship service involving world religions from indigenous to Buddhist, and even a few Episcopalians. Take the whole day, April 22, to tune into Earth Day Live, a global event that could spread faster than any pandemic––if we’re willing. If we’ll give it our time, our consideration.
This, too, is a heady time.