Another Earth Day has passed. Now even those of us who paused to celebrate in some way return to our usual lives and habits. Polls show that the environment appears low on the list of issues for Americans, so perhaps many believe Earth Day is enough recognition for the planet’s significance.
What is the “environment,” anyway? Is it a frill we don’t really need, a luxury we can’t afford, a gift we take for granted? Environment is the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we swim in, bath in, and drink. Yet if we don’t get sick from our food, smell something noxious, or taste something suspicious in our water, it’s easy to assume everything is all right. All too often we’ve found this isn’t true.
In our busy lives, it’s easy to miss the way we’re woven into the web of life. Where do those plastic bags go when we toss them in the garbage? Where and how are our fruits and vegetables grown? Where does our electricity come from? Where does our waste water go? The decisions we make, and those we expect our lawmakers to reach, do have consequences for us, and especially for our children and grandchildren. In the past, the environment has not been a partisan issue. It should not be now.
Sometimes it’s argued that we cannot afford efforts to protect our air, waterways, and food. But that depends on how much we value our health and safety. Cleaning up messes is much harder, and more expensive, than not making them in the first place. We have the imagination, knowledge, and technology to protect our earth, which, after all, we depend on for our very lives. Let’s not make one day Earth Day. Every day is Earth Day.