My mouse pad is the map of Wyoming, a square of virtual living earth with vein like roads and highways. Most of the highways that connect the towns and cities have snow fences to prevent the huge snow drifts caused by high winds on the plains. As a young driver, I learned to position my car behind a semi trailer truck, letting it battle the wind in winter. One year in late March, three of my girlfriends and I drove to Laramie for the high school basketball championships.
We discovered that a Pontiac convertible is not a great competitor in a spring blizzard, the snow won. The windshield wipers froze every few minutes, the defroster wasn’t up to the task, we’d pull over every so often and one of us would have to get out and scrape the ice and snow. Spring snowstorms are usually very wet and therefore heavy, the snow accumulation on the car’s roof caused little cracks for blowing snow to seep in. By the time we got home four hours later, a trip that normally took 2 hours, we looked like four snowmen. None of us really thought much about it, Wyoming weather could be challenging.
My ninth grade Civics teacher, Mr. Sanchez changed the way I viewed the world around me. I learned that I had a responsibility to care for the earth and its inhabitants. I helped raise money to plant trees, I picked up trash along the highway with my classmates on weekends, and I learned how important our elected officials were to the sustainability of our environment.
Water wasn’t an issue in Wyoming, the spring snow run-off provided plenty of fresh, pure drinking water. We didn’t need canteens when hiking, we just drank freezing water from the many streams.
Living in the suburbs of Denver in 1978, I got a big dose of the abuse of the earth. The smog was so dense that there were daily air quality advisories. Smog is still an issue in Denver forty five years later.
The gas crisis in 1979 brought about a summer of rationing, license plate numbers determined which day was your day for buying gas. There were long lines waiting to fill up at the gas stations in Coronado, California. Luckily, Coronado is a very small town, bike and walker friendly. I planned my excursions off of the island on my gas days in case my gas guzzling station wagon needed a “top off” to make it home.
Fast forward to 2023 and the theme of this year’s Earth Day is: “invest in our planet”. This year marks the 53rd anniversary of the birth of the environmental movement. With several environmental catastrophes, particularly the Santa Barbara oil spill and the Cuyahoga River fires (a symbol of industrial pollution) in 1969, many Americans felt it was time to take a more active approach in the stewardship of our planet. Gaylord Nelson is known as the father of Earth Day, as a U.S. senator and governor of the state of Wisconsin, he contributed to the passage of various environmental laws, including the Environmental Protection Act. Nelson had read about “teach-ins” organized by college students to raise awareness on campus of the Vietnam War.
Gaylord Nelson and his staff chose April 22, 1970 to fit college schedules between spring break and final exams. That first Earth Day was named “National Teach-In on the Crisis of the Environment “. That first Earth Day brought together millions of people and gave rise to the modern American Environmental movement.
Brown paper grocery bags were thought to be perfect, they could hold a lot of groceries and then were used to line trash can. Paper trash bags take a month to decompose in the landfill. Sten Gustaf Thulin invented plastic grocery bags in 1959 to “save the planet”, his concern was the number of forests being chopped down. To produce paper sacks. Thulin invented the “t-shirt bag” with the intent that each bag could be used many times due to its durability. Plastic bags are cheap, easier to carry, and take less storage space than paper. It takes approximately a 1,000 years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill. The bags don’t break down completely, they photo-degrade, becoming microplastics that absorb toxins and continue to pollute the environment.
Easton recently joined other counties in Maryland by banning plastic bags at retail stores. In California, the ban of single use plastic bags led to an estimated 89% reduction of bag litter in the storm drain system, according to the National Resources Defense Council. Banning single use plastic bags in a critical first step toward tackling the plastic crisis.
“We have a responsibility to act now to minimize our impact on this planet — for our children and future generations who will inherit what we leave behind”. Sir Paul McCartney