Earth Day should be everyday

Last Sunday, in the gusty rain, we celebrated Earth Day. Paying respect to the natural world is one of the oldest traditions of human kind. Some cultures still, to this day, worship the Earth, and some religions honor the Earth as the mother, and the Sun as father.

Celebrating the place that is home to life as we know it should not be difficult, but contentious opinions about our global state of affairs prevents man from objectively examining our role on this planet.

Climate change is happening — just look at the differences in the past two winters in Greenwich — but to the extent that humans beings contribute to it, is still up for debate. Every environmental issue, from global warming to renewable energy to food to open spaces, requires that people educate themselves and above all, be aware.

Awareness of actions is one of the most important and elusive traits to have in the modern age. Everything a person does has consequences, seen or unseen, that affects a chain of events that can either contribute to the problem or help with a solution.

The “out of sight, out of mind” mentality is an easy position to take these days. The business of life often precludes a capacity to care deeply about issues that transcend socioeconomic and political boundaries. But for those who see beyond their immediate vision, personal responsibility takes on a whole other meaning.

Some problems are close to home — the health of our waterways, the quality of our school food, the cleanliness of our open spaces. Other problems appear distant — radioactive leakage in Japan, hydro-fracking, mountain top removal coal mining. But everything in the Earth is connected, and is becoming even more connected with the globalization of cultures and business.

Acknowledging individual roles is crucial to understanding the consequences of our actions. Every time the toilet flushes, the waste doesn’t just disappear. Much of it eventually ends up on farm land, and in some cases, is used to grow food eaten by people. The Environmental Protection Agency tested this treated sludge, known as biosolids, and found more than 100 different types of flame retardants, pesticides, plasticizers, pharmaceuticals, semivolatile organics and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The health effects of biosolids are still unknown, but there are scores of anecdotal evidence of people and livestock getting sick as a result of fields being sprayed.

The environment affects, and is affected by, almost everything. More children are being diagnosed with autism than ever before, and the impact of environmental factors is still unclear.

Greenwich residents are no strangers to understanding the issues. There are intelligent, respectful and forward-thinking people who have been leading the town into the 21st Century — a time when nature and technology are seeking harmony after centuries of growth at the Earth’s expense.

The Earth was here long before people, and will likely be here long after humanity is no more. As the most intelligent form of life on the planet, people are the default stewards of the spaces we share with all other life. Recognizing this as a responsibility and being humbled by the depth of that task should be enough motivation for us to take a step back, inhale deep, and appreciate the natural beauty of this wondrous world. The next generation of people, and creatures, depends on it.

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