As sometimes happens, a topic for this week’s Nature Nut, my 338th, had not yet come to mind, just two days before I needed to submit a finished product.
But this past Sunday morning offered a no-brainer, as it just happened to be Earth Day, a celebration of a day designated as such 48 years ago, my junior year at Luther College.
I began the day, one that held promise for our first high of more than 60 degrees since Thanksgiving, reading the newspaper online. I didn’t see Earth Day mentioned at all until halfway through the meteorologist’s short daily weather report.
I’d already been giving some thought to Earth Day and where we were as a species in doing what all species try to do: adapt to survive in a changing world. The reality is, compared to many other species, we are a fairly new resident on this planet, and how long we will survive is unknown.
Our ability to alter the Earth’s environment more than any other species may very well dictate that amount of time. The optimists out there might conclude our intelligence will give us an edge for a long-term survival. Pessimists might say our negative impacts on the environment may doom us sooner rather than later. I am on the fence on that one but try to be optimistic.
My optimism was buoyed a bit by the day before Earth Day, when I took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Quarry Hill for the makeover of the Nature Center exhibit spaces. I must admit I had been somewhat skeptical of the changes being planned during the past five years but, upon seeing them up-close, felt it was a slam-dunk success.
Being able to see and reminisce with Harry Buck, Quarry Hill’s first director, current director Pam Meyer, whom I had hired, as well as board members and staff I had brought to Quarry Hill decades earlier, was a real treat.
But, it also was very special to congratulate Beth Zaiken, a former Quarry Hill student with whom I had many program experiences during my years as teacher/director. Beth was the lead designer for the renovation by Blue Rhino, the company that created the hands-on exhibits that I believe will continue to draw kids, families and adults to Quarry Hill for decades to come. I felt Beth drew on her years of experiences at Quarry Hill to make sure the nature center continued its mission of “opening eyes and minds through natural science discovery.”
Although we have done a lot of good since the first Earth Day, one thing that hit me during the week leading up to this year’s Earth Day were recent TV reports about the plastics man has wrought on the environment, with many ending up as huge masses in the oceans as big as some of our biggest states.
I had recalled reading earlier in the week about a business that was focusing on collecting ocean beach trash and converting it to usable recycled materials.
Later, I couldn’t help but wonder if a floating recycling factory couldn’t be set up amidst the floating ocean masses of plastic, suck them in and turn them into usable products. Then I realized many of the plastics we are unleashing into the environment are microscopic, but their impact on aquatic habitats is big.
While writing this column, I also saw another of the many recent TV ads by a local pest control company, and it reminded me this is the time of year people will be making choices that impact the environment. How much fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides to put on yards, gardens or farm fields, how much poison to put out to get rid of “bugs” we don’t want to be around, or how high we eat on the food chain are measures of how important it is to each of us to be good stewards of the environment.
Time will only tell how successful we will be as a species, but one thing I firmly believe is the collective actions of each human on the planet, not some meteor hitting us, will ultimately decide our fate.
So as you go through each day making decisions that affect your lives, give thought to how they affect the environment and maybe alter the ways you have been doing things throughout your life. For what we do today will ultimately affect the lives of generations to come.