Look outside at the water
And the trees.
Look out the window at the
flowers and leaves.
Now think to yourself, think long
What are we doing, what have
The air is polluted, haze
covers the sun.
Is it too late to stop the fate
that we bring?
Is it worthless to dream of
a fresh water spring?
'Tis magical, the sights
that we see,
so look outside and imagine the
way things should be.
-- Amanda Smith, Cataldo
Environmentalism starts at the top While stopped at a red light the other day, I noticed a bumper sticker on the car in front of me. It read "Save your mother," followed by a drawing of the Earth. While this is typically a pro-environment message, I found it ironic that the windshield it was plastered on belonged to a behemoth of a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV). This struck me as a fitting example of America's general attitude toward the environment. Once a year, come Earth Day, we may behave as though we do, in fact, care about the environment. But for the other 364 days we continue to drive our pollution-spewing SUVs, soil our rivers, oceans and skies with sewage and smog, while we turn a blind eye to "our mother." This reckless attitude is reflected well in the prominent figure of George W. Bush, our nation's president.
"Governor Bush is committed to a new era of environmental protection." So the GeorgeW. Bush Web site reads. However, his actions as president prove otherwise. Bush's recent federal budget proposal (this is only a proposal, right?) cuts funding for alternative and renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, the Wetlands Preserve Program, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. At the same time it increases funding for such ventures as searches for fossil fuels on public property and coal technology research.
Furthermore, Bush's efforts to exploit the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with oil drilling are directly contrary to his claims. His appointments of such notoriously anti-environment cabinet members like Gale Norton and Spencer Abraham also reflects his inconsistency.
Though it is easy to blame Bush for our environmental problems, we, the American citizens, are as much to blame. In the midst of an energy crisis we continue to ignore the goals of conservation and energy efficiency, resulting in negative effects on the environment. One example is the popularity of SUVs, which, despite periods of inflated gas prices, are still selling in droves. These vehicles consume more fuel and release more pollutants than smaller cars. Increased emissions of carbon monoxide by these and other automobiles fuel global warming, leading to increased events of extreme weather and melting of polar ice caps.
We also continue development that destroys animals' natural habitats, pollute our oceans and rivers with sewage, and threaten our health by using hazardous pesticides on farms. Yet most Americans seem unwilling to take action to halt these injustices, despite that they impact us every day.
In order to change our wasteful practices, we must change our lifestyles; this means utilizing public transportation or riding a bike, increasing the energy efficiency of our homes and offices, supporting legislation protecting the environment, and electing public officials who do the same. Change must also come from the top, with high ranking government officials leading the way with environmentally conscious stances.
Only together can we change for the better; better for ourselves, better for nature, better for the Earth.
-- Mike Connelly, Lewis and Clark
They are so beautiful to see, trees.
Blowing in the swift summer breeze.
High above the land,
stretching even farther than man.
The forests are becoming bare,
most of us only stop and stare.
Oxygen for breathing, and shelter for living,
we are the ones who need to start giving.
People should see that trees are the key,
for future children just like me.
-- Megan Higgins, Cataldo
It is hard for teens today to think about preserving the planet for later because it is such an abstract idea, especially because much of their future lies ahead. That doesn't mean that some of us don't think about it. Earth Day is a day that my elementary school celebrated every year by going out to a field and planting a tree. Once I graduated, I found it hard to break this habit; it was just something that was done.
Now, most people don't even know there is an Earth Day let alone when it is celebrated. It may be true that many teens today really do not care how much their planet is deteriorating. But remembering our ties to the Earth may be what gives us a long future.
Earth Day is a day to give something back to the earth after it has given so much to us. It is a day when cars should be kept in and dusty bicycles pulled out and used. Unfortunately, this is probably not going to happen. Every day people will take their cars and drive to work, alone, polluting the air all the way, when they could just as easily take a bus or car pool. Most of them will never give a second thought to what they could be doing for the Earth.
So why should we expect teenagers to be different? How about because we can actually see what the last generation is doing to the Earth? We know the effects of gases on the atmosphere. We know the effects of clear cutting entire forests that provide more oxygen as well as shelter to diverse animals.
How about because we have to live in it longer? Our children and their children deserve to live in a healthy clean environment and it would be nice if we could give them that gift as part of our legacy. Isn't it our responsibility to take care of our Earth and our future?
Thirty years ago, connecting to our environment was a big issue in every part of our society, but now it is an issue only for a few groups. And the strange thing is that 30 years ago they had many other important things to worry about, when the planet was still in fairly good shape. Now, although we have our problems, we don't have the same degree of them and our planet is still going down the drain. What happened to make us care less when we should care more?
I believe that there are enough good people who care less about their portfolios and more about the planet to do something about this problem. And I think that it is just about time that we do something. Earth Day is the perfect time to do your part in preserving the planet, and who knows, maybe something good will catch on.
-- Meara Downey, Lewis and Clark
The Last Time
The last time was a hot summer day.
The ancient trees shook with a subtle sway.
I looked at the forest from side to side,
where my heart lay buried deep inside.
I looked at the forest, it looked at me,
I didn't understand, I didn't see.
It questioned softly, "Why are you leaving me?"
The wet tears ran from my closed eyes,
as I heard the animals' screeching cries.
Now I look back, there's nothing to see,
just wasteful piles of endless debris.
When I return, my eyes fill with tears,
I think of all we've lost from those precious years,
From summer to spring, in every season,
what was the purpose, what was the reason?
-- Ashley Sanderson, Cataldo
What has happened to Earth Day?
Remember back in the day when peace and love were revered as the most important aspects of life? And do you also remember when Earth Day was celebrated with vivacity, being able to respect and recognize the Earth as our building block for life? Now, in the year 2001, I walk down the street and see all the messages being sent out pointing instead to the all-mighty dollar sign. And on Earth Day, well, let's just say you wouldn't know it was Earth Day at all. What has happened to the great celebration of our Earth?
To list all the factors that contribute to the ever-decreasing celebration of Earth Day would take up all of my paper, so instead I will give you two main factors. One is the message the media and other dominating corporations are sending, and the other is the examples and actions the American government is setting.
America is one of the most powerful countries in the world; some may say the reason for that is the taboo, the all-American motto: "Bigger, better, stronger, faster." In my opinion, this thought is definitely an aspect of American culture, but I also have good reasons to believe that it has done more good than bad. This motto tells us that we should care for nothing (even the Earth that gives us life) but being the best. In such matters of war and economy, this single thought has increased American people's morale, but what good has it done to Earth and our future on this planet? Most multimillion corporations and influential media help push this motto to the masses, where people eat it up like candy because it really is all they know.
But what if American people knew it was possible to live a peaceful and happy life without such harsh and thoughtless competition? If there weren't an advertisement on every street corner and corporation sponsors for every baseball field, would Americans be better off? I believe so.
If the media stopped making up absurd stories of Hollywood's rich and famous, and put that effort into acknowledging the important issues that affect everyone (such as the depletion of the ozone layer and recycling) then maybe Americans would become more satisfied with their own lives. I'm almost completely sure that the citizens of America would live more comfortably if they knew that the rainforest wasn't being exploited, or if they knew they could do something about it. But how could they know that if no one ever tells them? Creating a greater focus on holidays such as Earth Day would surely spread the word of exploited rainforests, or any other environmental issue for that matter.
One other significant influence on the decrease of Earth Day celebrations is the actions and examples of the American government. I recently read an article in USA Today about President Bush's rejection of a global warming pact to lower the carbon dioxide emissions. Bush was quoted as saying it "would make no economic sense" to join the war against global warming. He defends his rejection with the current energy crisis, but if we (the government) had recognized that natural gas doesn't last forever, then would we be in this situation in the first place? Also, the government's push on a better and wealthier economy is telling people to care more for money. There is no significant voice for the environmental issues, there is no one at the present time to tell America we need to always remember our Earth. In the end, when all the money is burned and all the buildings crumble, only the Earth will remain in its abused, exploited agony.
Overall, that is my simple reasoning to the question "Why is there no prominent involvement in the celebration of Earth Day?" But the American culture of peace and love revealed in the '60s has not completely died, leaving some hope for Earth Day. It is growing in the mind of the youth -- the next generation. It is increasing in intelligence and power every day. And one day the important influences on America will be this next generation; they will focus not on the wealth and dominance of the economy (as important as it is), but maybe on Earth Day and the importance of looking to the future, as the present leaders are not doing. To make up for the faults of the leaders before us is the heavy task the new generation must accomplish. So let's celebrate Earth Day!
-- Melissa Pingree, Lewis and Clark
You touch the water
And see the ripples you make
Balance of nature
-- Daniel Parisot, Cataldo
Splish splash, drip drop. Every morning we wake up to these sounds of water. However, can you imagine waking up to no fresh water? This could happen unless we do something to prevent it. This year especially, Washington is in a crisis due to our shortage of pure water. We need everyone to help conserve our fresh water. Let's get serious and discuss what we can do. In the following, you will read about where the problem starts, how it's affecting us and methods of conserving water.
The problem starts with us. Only 3 percent of the
world's water is fresh. However, we waste most of our fresh water through careless mistakes. For example, rivers and streams are polluted by wastewater from factories and gas from cars. Even the little bits of plastic bags and other materials that people in our society throw away end up in our water supplies.
The water levels of lakes, streams and rivers have dropped dramatically. This summer many people may not be permitted to fill up their pools. The shortage may also limit the watering of your lawn. We need to act quickly to stop this problem from growing because this isn't a problem we can ignore.
If you aren't sure how to help conserve water, I have come up with several ideas for you. By running washing machines and dishwashers only when they are full, bathing young children together and installing covers on pools and spas to avoid water evaporation, we can save thousands of gallons of water a month. These are very simple methods that everyone should practice.
Remember this essay because the problem starts with us. Water shortage affects everyone, and there are many ways to help conserve. Even the little amount you waste contributes to the problem.
Splish splash, drip drop -- please don't let these sounds of water stop.
-- Lauren Richardson, Cataldo