APR 22, 2018 02:50 PM PDT

How to think about Earth Day

If you haven’t watched the Google Doodle yet today, do it. I know I was inspired by Jane Goodall’s calm voice speaking out to me, reminding me that “Every single individual matters, every individual makes some impact on the planet, every single day. What better day than Earth Day to really make a determined effort to live better lives in harmony with nature?”

Earth Day has the same advantages and disadvantages as every other special month or day we celebrate, be it World Water Day or Black History Month or Independence Day. On the one hand, these days call our attention and remind us to refocus our efforts and ambitions; they can motivate us and bring us together with grassroots movements to create community amongst isolated individuals. This is crucial. But in another sense, these days also are somewhat of a hoax – for should we not be celebrating and organizing and taking action every day of the year, not just this one?

The Black-eyed Leaf Frog in Guatemala went from a "critically endangered" specie of "least concern" this year. Photo: Vox

No matter how your beliefs lean in this matter, I invite you to contemplate your impact on the Earth today. (And tomorrow, and next month, too.) How is your daily routine linked to the ground beneath your feet, to the air around you? Do you know where the food you eat comes from? Do you know your local farmers? Where does your trash go?

Sometimes these are questions that overwhelm me because too often the answers are “I don’t know.” Today, more so than going to an Earth Day rally or planting a tree in your neighborhood, I encourage you to stop and sit down on the earth for a few moments. Meditate, perhaps, on how the Earth impacts you. Think about how you feel when the sun shines on your face with just the right breeze. How does the air smell when new flowers start to push their way into the world? Can you hear the birds warbling? Connect yourself to the smallest and largest facets of nature. Perhaps you will realize that you are a part of it all, too, just as important as those squirrels chasing each other up your neighbors’ tree, and they, just as important as you.

For me, the desire to “save the planet” comes from my belief that everything and everyone deserves a healthy and safe place to live. But that desire, as noble as it may be, can run dry really quickly when I’m running to and from work, breaking up the kids’ fights, making dinner, taking out the trash. Desire is not enough to be sustainable. Desire needs motivation. And that’s why Earth Day really is significant. Sharing ideas and hopes and strategies, sharing hikes and tree plantings, sharing park clean-ups; it’s the act of sharing with others who have the same desire that can motivate, that can sustain. So, get out there today and make that shared connection. Or if you can’t today, do it tomorrow. And do it again next month, too.

Where does your food come from? Photo: Fill Your Plate

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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