Celebrating Earth Daily by Living a Simple Eco-Friendly Life

MOTHER managing editor K. C. Compton suggests you can celebrate earth every day by living a simple eco-friendly life.

| April/May 2002

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    The Apollo 17 astronauts took this photo, which shows the Arabian Peninsula and Africa, as they left Earth orbit en route to the moon on Dec. 7, 1972. This view of the Earth from space drove home how finite and precious our resources are.
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    In 1975, Austin Smart (the author's son) does his own work in Oklahoma's good earth, helping tend the garden, which produced corn, beans and an embarrassment of tomatoes.

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Learn how to celebrate earth daily by living a simple eco-friendly life. 


In his speech to the first Earth Day participant in April 1970, organizer Denis Hayes made it clear the event was a beginning, not a one-hit wonder. "If the environment is a fad, it's going to be our last fad," he announced to the thousands gathered that bright, spring day in Washington, D.C. "We are building a movement, a movement with a broad base, a movement which transcends traditional political boundaries. It is a movement that values people more than technology, people more than political boundaries, people more than profit."

Idealistic words for an idealistic generation. And the fact is, that idealism paid off. Concern for a clean, healthy environment has become a part of our national ethos. Not one that's heeded at all times by a people, but one that's here to stay. Remember: Earth Day wasn't handed down to Americans from on high by an anonymous, all knowing government, nor by savvy corporate marketers. It arose because a concerned and educated citizenry was calling for a response to the environmental hazards that seemed to be erupting at every turn. American citizens decided accepting a deteriorating environment was not good enough for them. We expected change, and we produced it. That fact is both a history lesson and a blueprint.

One of the most dramatic changes many of us made during the late 1960s and early '70s was the belief—no, the certainty—that the Earth is not made up of humans and a huge, dumb collection of things—trees, rocks, rivers, animals, air—for us to shove around and exploit in any old way we please. We read Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold, Alan Watts, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Frances Moore Lappe, Ram Dass and others on a long, nourishing list. We shifted our perspective, slowed ourselves down and began to notice the world as a living, breathing beauty, an animate environment of which we humans are a portion, but not its possessors. We saw that we belong to the Earth, it does not belong to us. Our planet, our home, is not a dead carcass awaiting whatever butchery, feeds our latest hunger. It lives; we live in it and only in it. This is the knowledge of which transformations are made.

Seeing the photos of the Earth taken from the Apollo space missions, we understood once and for all how tiny we were amid ineffable vastness. We realized for the first time how finite our resources are and how inescapably our destinies are interwoven with that of our precious, perfect planet. We called it our Little Blue Marble, quoting Apollo 17 astronaut Charlie Duke, who described Earth after seeing it from the moon. The phrase became trite with overuse, but at that time it gave us a means to express an affection for Earth we hadn't had the language to articulate. When in history had the human race been able to grasp so utterly and so graphically our place in the web of life? As with other moments of falling in love, once we truly saw the world and our connection to it, nothing could ever be the same.

For some, the environmental movement has always been about standing at a barricade, drawing attention to the horrendous, the outrageous, or simply the unfair in relation to human interaction with the environment. Protest can be valuable because it draws attention to an issue, draws a line in the sand. Rebellion can spark, but it cannot sustain change. Rebellion alone doesn't provide context, and without context humans cannot alter their behavior. Earth Day was born out of broad-based citizen insistence that attention be paid to the environment: It was, first and foremost, an enormous educational event. It provided a context for thousands and thousands of people to think differently about the environment. And that thinking changed us forever.

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