Fifty years ago, today, April 22, 1970, I was a student at Sunset Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
And on that day, I was a part of the very first Earth Day celebration as I joined together with students in two thousand colleges and universities, thousands of primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States in an effort to bring awareness to negative environmental impacts.
At my school, I vividly remember the members of the student council marching across campus in a somber death march. They carried a long, narrow cardboard box that looked like a coffin. It symbolized the dying natural resources and the world in which we lived.
At the time, I really did not grasp the truth of the message.
Like other kids my age, I grew up with the commercial of the Native American with the tear on his face as he viewed a landscape covered in litter. Or, we had the owl that reminded us to “Give a Hoot, and Don’t Pollute.”
It was not until years later, when I found myself as an assistant in an environmental research group at The University of Tennessee, did I begin to grasp the larger picture.
I learned that landfills consist of cells, and they leak with pollutants into the ground and into the streams if not sealed properly. And, no one really wants a landfill in their backyard.
I learned that air pollution can contain carcinogens and many communities have a higher rate of cancers because of the exposure.
I learned that there are common household practices that can be performed in a safer way and with cleaner technologies.
I learned what brownfields were and how they impact neighborhoods environmentally and economically.
I learned that without a change in mindset, the world and our environment would only get worse.
There is no doubt that a bright spot in this pandemic has been the impact on the air as we drive less and stay home more.
As a result, carbon monoxide emissions in New York City are down 50%; smog has lifted in Los Angeles; and stars can be seen at night in Delhi.
Of course, all of this is temporary.
When this is all over, life will return to normal…or will it?
We have an opportunity to become better stewards of what God created for us as we make lifestyle changes.
Afterall, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1)
Happy Earth Day,