earth day 2022

Earth Day Reflections…

It’s Earth Day today. It’s not a day as any other day we celebrate something; It is a movement, the largest environmental movement on our planet.

Earth Day started in 1970. That’s 52 years of environmental movement. By now, we should celebrate it only as a historical moment. We should be celebrating it as “this is the day we started a movement to save your planet.”

Yet, we still celebrate it by fighting for our planet. And we still have to fight, we still didn’t get everyone on board. Or, maybe plenty of people celebrate, maybe even plant a tree, but the next day forget it.

We might have only one Earth Day a year, but we should celebrate Earth Day every day. Every single day of every single year.

1970

In 1970 I was three years old. I haven’t heard of Earth Day.

I lived in a country where we knew nothing about the environmental movement, yet somehow we polluted less and cared more.

The first poem I ever learned as a six-year-old (and still remember), started with the line “Don’t hurt the tree, since she can also feel it”. Even as a young child, I took it to heart. Our town was surrounded by trees, forests on at least two sides. We spent countless hours in and around the forests, enjoying the spring flowers growing under the trees in spring, walking in the cool shade in summer, playing in the leaves in fall, and trotting in the pristine snow in winter. I always felt the trees were protecting us, so in turn, we took care of them.

We walked pretty much everywhere, (since no one in my town owned a car), or rode a bus or train if we went out of town. We bought our milk in glass containers that we reused, taking them back to the store every time exchanging them for new bottles. Everyone carried their own shopping bags to the stores, since we never even heard of plastic bags. We reused and fixed everything, instead of buying new things as soon as something was broken or out of style.

So, maybe we didn’t need to worry about an environmental movement. Yet. Or so it seemed.

In the Spring of 1970

In the spring of 1970, when people in the US first celebrated Earth Day, three-year-old me was standing on our balcony, apparently singing “Ludas is swimming”. Ludas is the name of my home town. In the spring of 1970, it experienced the worse flood in its history.

Since our house was higher than the rest, my mother holding my one-year-old baby brother and I could wait on our balcony, while my father with a few others, rowed a boat through town, taking people whose homes were fully under water to higher ground. Higher ground was the local middle school, across the street from us, where they set up temporary shelters in the classrooms.

Watching my town under water, my father rowing a boat where we would normally walk, must have felt strange to a three-year-old. Strange, but apparently not scary, if I was singing. I don’t remember any of it, but heard the story often enough to know the details. Slightly embarrassing, but I also understand that for a three-year-old this must have looked like an adventure. After all, no one was hurt, people were riding boats instead of walking, and the streets were under water. At the age of three I didn’t understand the problem with loosing things.

It was a natural disaster, a natural occurrence, and maybe a three-year-old understood it better than the adults. The flood was simply a natural phenomenon that would’ve had no consequences for humans if they didn’t build the town on the shores of the river. In the natural world, when snow melts, rivers flood. It’s part of life on this planet. Yet, when we build our homes and cities in these flood zones, we have disasters.

And these disasters are multiplying around the world, on a much larger scale.

The Origins of Earth Day

Though in tiny Ludas in Transylvania, we haven’t heard of Earth Day, while we focused on surviving a flood and cleaning up after, an environmental movement started in the US. I only recently found out from David Mahood’s book, Kings of a Lonely Kingdom, scientists warned the government about the consequences of our actions even before that day.

Finally, in April 22nd, 1970, the environmental movement was born in the US. It was a day of awareness, a day when people realized we needed to change direction. Half a century ago, people stood up for our planet. Apparently the first Earth Day was a tremendous success, but, like every fast success, it proved to be short lived. We still kept polluting, ruining our planet…

Now we are at the very end of a window when we can still save our planet. And, while things look bad, there are more good things happening in the world.

Though it often seems that for every step we take in the right direction, we take two steps back, in fact, we are still making progress. The movement has grown since the first Earth Day, and now millions of people are participating, through different means.

“Invest in Our Planet”

Sequoia National Park Redwood Mountain Grove

In 2022 the Earth Day motto was “Invest in Our Planet“. It I indeed last minute to act, but we still have time. We have a few years to act, to reduce emissions, to protect the future of our children, and future generations.

It’s easy to get discouraged, when we look around us. Even now, as I am writing this, my favorite part of Arizona is burning. Last night, the National Parks Service announced that “Sunset Crater National Monument is burned in its entirety”. It’s hard to feel hopeful, when everywhere you look, you see devastation. It’s hard to feel hopeful, when a war is raging near my home country, destroying not only human lives, but the surrounding environment. And it is especially hard to feel hopeful when I still read about big companies hurting the environment with their practices.

I know it is last minute. But I am a last-minute person, and I know things can get done in the very last possible moment. I know the feeling of getting things done fast and well, after procrastinating forever. I think probably most of humanity acts last minute. And that’s when we do our very best. So I still have hope.

And the thing about doing things last minute, all the procrastination was only non-acting on the surface. During all this time, we made progress. With a few exceptions, most people are aware of the environmental problems we face, and of ways to fix them.

We have alternatives to do just about everything more sustainably. We can live and travel in a more sustainable way than we could have years ago. And, when possible, most people choose sustainable alternatives. Yes, we need to get everyone on board. We need to tackle our problems from all fronts.

On a Personal Level

Though it might not seem to make a huge difference, everything we do each day helps. And now it’s easier than it was ten years ago to be environmentally conscious, and live a more sustainable life.

We are far from doing everything possible. And maybe it doesn’t make much of a difference that we use minimal amount of plastic in one household; or that I switched to laundry detergent strips as soon as I learned about their existence, or that I’ve been making my own shampoo and hand soap, and storing them in older, reused containers, or that I always use my own shopping bags, air-dry our clothes, and other day-to-day little things that I hope help the planet.

Of course I ‘m not naive enough to believe that all of this makes a huge difference. But it makes me feel good, and maybe if enough people do it, it will make a difference, however small.

On a Global Level

Other than protesting, signing petitions, electing leaders and officials who do want to make a difference in the right direction, we have no power to really change the world. Some people are better at these than others. Fortunately, as time goes by, more and more people stand by what’s right for the planet, what’s right for us.

It might still not be enough. When I look around, when I see how much we are still destroying our planet, instead of restoring it, I often get discouraged, I often feel close of losing hope.

But, as long as we each do our best, and keep our hope, we can, even in the last possible minute, change the course we are going, and preserve our planet for our children, and future generations.

2 thoughts on “Earth Day Reflections…”

  1. I enjoyed your Earth Day Reflections. Especially since it was quite different than mine since it is from an international perspective. We have for a century or so been the biggest contributor per capita of GHG emissions in the U.S. As such it has been my belief that our actions need to be commensurate with this fact. Sadly, they have not. As many people view Earth Day as a more trivial matter than what it was intended to be, they forget the legacy of Senator Nelson, its founder. My sentiments on Earth Day will always be as a tribute to him. He was a politician of courage who worked across the aisle to get things done. The 1970s in the U.S. proved to be the most far reaching for environmental legislation in our history. We can thank Gaylord Nelson (and others) for this. That fact speaks loudly, far more than just the 22nd of April. So, we celebrate him and our imperiled home planet this Earth Day.

    1. Thank you, David. I didn’t know the political background of the origins of Earth Day until I read your book. But I feel it is so important that it started a world-wide movement (more than a celebration), and started bringing awareness to the environmental issues. Unfortunately it didn’t keep up the momentum; It would’ve been extremely helpful if the political legislation would’ve continued the environmental movement on the same level in the past half a century. However, it looks like now at least we are once again moving in the right direction. I hope at least.

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