22 April 2009

Earth Day 2009

Happy Earth Day to all of the faithful and few that read my blog!

"Nine planets around the Sun,
Only one does the Sun embrace,
And on this watered one,
So much we take for granted..."
Dave Matthews Band, One Sweet World

The theme this year seems to be the Green Generation Campaign that will culminate in next year's 40th anniversary Earth Day Celebration around the world. Don't take it for granted that your environment, your ecological support, your planet will remain the same forever. Get out there and do something good for yourself and for everyone else. Don't know where to go or what to do? Check your local newspaper, check the web, visit the Earth Day Network and find an event. Clean up a park, a playground, a streambed, a sidewalk. Plant a tree, recycle your office paper and magazines and junk mail and newspapers, your bottles and cans and just clap your hands, just clap your hands...

Get involved, somewhere, somehow. Got a nice garden? Join the National Phenology Network. Know your ecological address? Check out the EPA's Surf Your Watershed site. Want to help others with the most basic of human needs? Contribute to the Global Water Network and Water For People. Where does your own water come from? Where does your trash go? How much is your electric bill, your gas bill, your water bill? Got CFL bulbs in all your lamps? Make sure you know where to recycle them properly. And by the way, what's that stuff coming out of that pipe and pouring into the stream near the factory across town? (Don't touch it, just ask!) Stencil a stormwater drain. Check up on your state water and environmental quality agencies. Educate yourself, your kids, your spouse or significant other, your parents, your friends, your neighbors.

What keeps me awake sometimes and drives me to work so hard at this stuff? Nearly one billion people in the world have no source of clean, fresh water. Two-and-a-half billion people in the world do not have adequate sanitation to help prevent the spread of disease. More than six thousand people around the world die every day from water-borne illnesses, and most of them are children under five years old. My daughter is about to turn seven years old, lives in a decent house in a rich country, can get her own water from the kitchen sink and can use the bathroom whenever she needs, and goes to a decent school with similarly reliable water and sanitation services. Just for those, she's a lucky kid, one of the few in the world. If you have those too (and chances are, since you're reading this blog on a computer that is connected to the internet, you do) then consider yourself one of the lucky as well, and don't take it for granted.

Hmmmm...what else? Global warming, anthropogenic climate change, melting ice caps, rising sea levels, shrinking glaciers, homeless polar bears, over-appropriated rivers, streams and street gutters and city parks as dump sites, untreated sewage outfalls, combined sewer overflows (yes, even in the U.S., there are still cities with combined sewer systems), polluted stormwater, pharmaceuticals in wastewater, laws against greywater re-use, interbasin water transfers, aquifer depletion, arsenic in the groundwater, leaky municipal water systems, unmetered wells and homes, aqueducts across the desert, inefficient irrigation methods, green lawns and blue pools and all the golf courses in Arizona and southern California, virtual water, invasive species, urban heat islands, floodplain encroachment and development, land grabs for water rights, water grabs without land rights, big dams and big reservoirs, international river basins, green revolutions in developing countries, fossil water mining, deforestation, water shortages, food shortages, energy shortages, desertification, saltwater intrusion in coastal aquifers, floods, flash floods, droughts, inundation without compensation, tipping points in the climate system, mass migrations of animals and peoples, genocide, climate refugees, alternative energy that is actually more expensive ecologically, carbon cap-and-trade schemes, water as a basic human right, environmental regulation without means of legal enforcement, the sixth extinction, and rivers that no longer reach the sea.

But, lest I become the downer for your day, look at this Earth Day as a opportunity to make a difference in the world around you. Think globally, act locally, learn, teach, and do. Still need inspiration? Watch an episode of the award-winning BBC Planet Earth series, and check out NASA's extraordinary new presentation of Bella Gaia.