Celebrating Earth Daily by Living a Simple Eco-Friendly Life

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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.

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

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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.

For many of us, this education has been a
work in progress ever since when living a simple eco-friendly life. We don’t see ourselves
necessarily being involved in a movement, but in motion, a
timeless two step that partners the Earth’s needs with our
own. What we appreciate becomes more simple, and sometimes
distressingly difficult to find. We embrace
sensibility–making sense, being deeply acquainted
with our senses. We want to taste our food and find it
delicious–pure, full of health and flavor. We want to
feel our bodies from the inside out and know they are as
healthy as our choices can make them. We want to smell the
air and feel the yearning of our lungs for more, rather
than the shying away and shutting down that occurs when air
is foul. We want to know the sweetness of sparkling, clean
water. We want the solid confidence of knowing we can
create and craft our own solutions to the situations we
face.

We sense community built to human scale is the only thing
that will allow the unpredictable beauty of our natures to
emerge. Otherwise we are things, not beings. We want
communities–rural, urban, suburban–that have
emotional and physical space for beings, communities woven
with elastic, not rigidly hammered into place. We want to
see technology and industry serve nature and community, not
the other, dreary way around.

That Little Blue Marble photo juxtaposed with a photo of my
son working in our little garden represent the strands of a
thread woven through many of our lives since those early
Earth Days. My pursuit of the personal–a healthy
garden, nutritious food thoughtfully prepared for those I
love, a domestic life that nurtured my children, an
existence as homespun as I could manage, a life that was
kind to the Earth–rooted me in the World Out There,
microcosm reflecting and connecting to macrocosm. Life
nurturing life nurturing Life.

Some of us let those early sensibilities slide during the
’80s and ’90s as we marched off in pursuit of other goals.
Others never strayed from those earlier values and are
richer now for their steadfastness. Recent events have
reawakened all of us in varying degrees to the vastly
interdependent nature of life here on our beautiful Earth.
We find ourselves asking with renewed urgency what life on
this planet needs, not only to survive, but to
thrive–and looking to see how we can provide for
those needs. We’ll all come up with different answers, but
in the end the actions we take will add up to something
worthy.

Earth Day, every day. It’s not too much to expect.

K. C. Compton is managing editor of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. A journalist for 20 years in New Mexico and Wyoming, she is
working on a book about being on the front lines of social
change while living in the country’s heartland during the
1960s and ’70s.