Respect the Planet–It’s the Only One We Have

Opting for Louis Armstrong’s World View

Lawns are transitioning from brown to green. The redbuds, forsythia, flowering quince and a multitude of other trees, bushes and flowers are bursting forth in a riot of color. Tiny green, fragile shoots are boldly breaking through the earth in backyard gardens everywhere.

Spring has sprung, and who isn’t happy about that, unless it’s those of us with seasonal allergies?

While each of the four seasons holds its own unique allure, spring is the time most associated with renewal. After her long winter slumber, Mother Nature reawakens with a bang. With a bright flash of lightning and crack of thunder, the skies let loose a deluge of life-affirming rain, washing the air clean and leaving behind the fresh scent of ozone. My father used to talk about storms as living entities, with a life force and energy unlike any other force of nature–a concept I continue to find oddly compelling.

Surrounded by the sights, smells, textures and sounds of the season, the thoughts of many turn to walks along a lake or winding forest trail and other outside pursuits.

But already in many cities, and in many parts of the world, the air, water and earth itself have been so badly polluted by human industry that plants are stunted–where they grow at all–breathing the air has become hazardous, especially for those with asthma and other breathing problems, and many species of flora and fauna have become extinct.

Even more alarming, most scientists now agree that human activity has led to global climate change, with dire consequences, including life- and property-endangering extremes in weather (e.g., record heat, drought and fires). Even if you doubt the validity of global change theories, everyone should care about how pollution is affecting our health and the food chain upon which all our lives depend. Mother Nature deserves our respect.

Fortunately, more and more people seem to be joining the “Earth camp”–foresighted people from all backgrounds and walks of life, blue collar and white collar, young and old, self-educated and college educated—who realize that immediate action on both the local and global scale is necessary to ensure a positive future for all living beings on this planet.

There are many ways to take action. Join an organization whose focus is the environment, such as the Earth Day Network 
(earthday.org/about/) or the Sierra Club (http://sierraclub.org/). There’s power in numbers. Keep up with legislation that has the potential to impact the environment in your community or state, and let your legislator or congressman know your views on the matter.

As an individual or family, you can initiate simple, environmentally friendly changes. Reduce your carbon footprint by buying local produce at your farm market. Create a garden compost and turn food waste into rich garden soil. Separate your recyclables from the rest of your trash and place them in the appropriate receptacles. Stop using disposable plastic and Styrofoam. Opt out of receiving junk mail. Recycle your e-waste (an Internet search will yield a list of places that will accept this material). Replace traditional incandescent light bulbs throughout the house with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

One of my favorite songs of all time is “What a Wonderful World,” sung by the indomitable Louis Armstrong, in which he speaks of “trees of green, red roses too,” “skies of blue and clouds of white” and “the colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky.” That’s the world I want to live in; how about you?