Amy Roberts: Earth Day should be every day
I’ve always subscribed to the theory that the greatest mistake we make is doing nothing because we can only do a little. I have made a concerted effort to remind myself of this and to never view any act of environmental stewardship, no matter how small, as insignificant or unnecessary. But for a bit too long I prided myself as a conservationist because I recycle, walk or take public transportation far more than I drive, and avoid using plastic straws. My assumption was that because I donate to environmental causes, take my reusable bags to the grocery store, and have LED light bulbs in my home, I was doing enough.
These actions, along with a few other, larger contributions — namely not adding to an already overpopulated planet and eating a mostly plant-based diet — have given me an unjust sense of self-righteousness. Admittedly, I’ve overlooked my Amazon.com habit because, well, at least I don’t have diapers being shipped to my door. Somehow, I convinced myself that made up for my typical three or four deliveries each week. Convenience has a way of trumping conscience.
But now my conscience is throwing a fit and demanding attention. It started a few weeks ago when Netflix debuted the docuseries “Our Planet.” Narrated by famed naturalist David Attenborough, the series is a captivating mix of unbelievably stunning cinematography, mindblowing examples of the ecosystem’s interdependence, and sobering truths about man’s interference with the natural world. One of the early episodes is set in the Arctic and Antarctic. While filming in Russia, the crew captured a scene of roughly 100,000 walruses crammed together on a beach — forced to gather there because the sea ice had melted. To escape the crush, many of the walruses scaled a cliff looking for more space. As they attempted to return to the sea for food, their poor eyesight deceived them, and they tragically plunged to their painful deaths, their mangled and twisted bodies left to rot below.
Every single episode of this series left me both awestruck and grief stricken. I have never seen more compelling, dramatic, or beautiful footage. I was constantly shifting from spellbound to sobbing. Now, I hope to shift toward doing more.
I don’t want to disregard the little things — they do add up. But when it comes to conserving nature and maintaining a balanced ecosystem, we have to collectively realize a little is no longer enough.
We aren’t usually forced to confront the consequences of our consumerism or examine our personal impact. But it’s there, right behind every decision we make — what we order on menus, what we buy in stores, where we develop land. We clear rainforests, which covert carbon emissions into clean air, so we can graze cattle there instead. We bastardize land and poison waterways to extract natural resources for technology we will throw away a year or two after purchasing it. We destroy the natural habitats of birds, fish, dragonflies and frogs in the name of progress, then lather ourselves in toxic chemicals to keep mosquitoes at bay.
We all have to live in this modern world, and the unpleasantness of our actions is often so far removed, we can’t help but assume there’s nothing more we can do. But that’s where we are wrong. We can all do more. And fortunately, it’s not as difficult as we might expect.
The nonprofit group Project Drawdown (drawdown.org) recently ranked the most effective climate change solutions. Some require government oversight or municipal planning, but there’s a great number of changes each of us can independently implement to make an immediate and real impact. Here’s what tops this list:
- Throw away less food
- Switch to a plant-based diet
- Drive an electric car
- Use LED light bulbs
- Support organizations that: protect and restore forests, educate girls around the world, increase access to family planning
- Consume less
- Conserve more
Earth Day was created to remind us it is our responsibility to be good stewards of the planet we all share. Let’s commit to doing more, for more than just one day a year.