A lot of people celebrated Earth Day recently. It was the 41st Earth Day, but since scientists generally agree that the planet is about 4.5 billion years old, it seems like the earth has been short-changed a little on the celebrations.
It was interesting to observe Earth Day once again, to watch the attention the national media gives the event, and to see how some people used the occasion for a lot of self-congratulatory nonsense. We can blame the greeting card companies and the floral industry for flaky invented holidays such as "bosses day" and "sweetest day", but I don't think they had a hand in this one.
If Earth Day makes a few people feel better, then that makes it okay, we suppose. But if you followed any of the rallies or the extensive discourse that took place on the most recent planet day, it seemed like there was a lot of very warm and fuzzy rhetoric from some, or doomsday speak from others, and then there was even more of both.
A parade of folks charged up to the podium, some passionately predicting the end of the world without a shred of sound, factual evidence, while others nearly broke their arms patting themselves on the back for riding their bike to work one day, or refusing to use a plastic bag at Walmart.
It's always interesting to watch what happens once the blah-blah-blah of another Earth Day fades. Do people really radically change their lifestyles after hearing those speeches? Or is it just a relatively meaningless and insincere feel-good exercise, since on occasion the locations of Earth Day celebrations have been left scarred with litter.
My favorite environmentalists have never been preachy, or wasted any time telling everyone how sensitive and sophisticated they are. They don't recognize Earth Day because theirs is an every-day, every-week, everyyear kind of commitment.
These folks have dirt under their fingernails, not expensive manicures with French tips. They don't buy their boots from catalogs. For them, a callus that results from hard work is not a medical issue, it's a fashion accessory.
With these grass roots environmentalists, there is no Earth Day, no green movement, no big push to use high-speed light rail. They are practical, and realistic people. They think solar panels and wind mills are a fine supplemental source of power, but not something we can depend on to keep the lights on.
They're not sure how anyone can condemn oil and gas and coal, because there's hardly anything more organic or natural around. Aren't those the by-products of Mother Nature's compost pile?
My grandpa died just five years after the first official Earth Day, but he had been recognizing the sanctity of the planet and treating it with the utmost respect for about 28,000 days before that. Care for the earth was not something he pondered, not something he lectured us about, or something he was inspired to do because he heard a great speech one day.
He was never an environmentalist, if that is a religion or a political movement. He was a caretaker. Grandpa felt like the English Walnut trees in his West Virginia woods, the fish in the creek, the rain he collected off the roof, and the rich soil in his garden all belonged to The Creator, and it would behoove us to take care of those things.
Grandpa had the philosophy that nothing went to waste if there was any potential use for it. It wasn't a ritual or a chore or a hardship to conserve and be sensible - it was just what you did.
He was a World War I veteran who never considered his service anything brave or heroic. It was just what you did. In order to care for his family, he took many actions others considered to be significant sacrifices. In his mind, it was just what you did.
As has been noted previously, my grandpa was never part of a protest, never carried a sign, never marched on Washington demanding more electric cars or less nuclear power. He didn't need Earth Day speeches, T-shirts or slogans to increase his awareness. Taking care of the planet was just what he did. It's what we all should do, in a practical, sensible fashion.
Matt Markey is the A-T outdoors columnist.
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