“We can think of the Earth and its natural resources as a one-time inheritance that we received from nature or God… and the question is are we going to squander that inheritance like a derelict rich kid and go broke, or are we going to treat it like the fortune that it is and be good stewards?... Global society has been acting like the derelict rich kid, and experts agree that we’ve been in global overshoot for 3 decades… by mid20-30s we’ll need two Earths to support us and, of course, we only have one.”
—Emmett Duffy; Professor of Marine Science at the
College of William and Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Every year, I think about how I'll tackle the immense topic of Earth Day. It looms huge for me because, although Earth Day is and ought to be every day, most of us think consciously about it once a year (if that!). But the once-a-year version is significant to me because 41 years ago, when it all started, I was a college student in the midst of our campus activities—which focused mostly on education, recycling, and other cosmetic efforts. Hey, we tried!
Now, though, there's a lot more meaning to Earth Day for me, even though it seems largely neglected in our world of heedless consumption. Sometimes it's hard to be hopeful in these times of global climate change and other effects of rampant human overpopulation. One thoughtful, authoritative, and articulate blogger helps bring me back to Earth every time I visit (even though he's blogging elsewhere these days), and he is Emmett Duffy, the Natural Patriot. Here are a few of my favorite samples from 2009:
- Approaching the Ultimate Limits
- An assessment of the Obama administration from the Ecological Society of America
- The End of the World As We Know It
Quotes in his “Food for Thought” sidebar are only one reason to visit the Natural Patriot. I love this revolving quote widget of his, or whatever it is, and today I discovered you can refresh them by clicking through with your mouse. So in lieu of further pontificating on my part, I bring you a limited selection of more memorable comments on our predicament. Quote addict that I am, this list could go on forever, but I'm trying to be discreet!
Most have gone long unheeded, but... we can't say we haven't been warned! Even a variety of American presidents have tried to sound the alarm.
You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.
Saving our civilization is not a spectator sport.
We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt
I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty, which will protect the beauty of our natural environment, which will preserve the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past and which will build handsome and balanced cities for our future.
—John F. Kennedy
Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is a party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.
The Creation, whether you believe it was placed on this planet by a single act of God or accept the scientific evidence that it evolved autonomously during billions of years, is the greatest heritage, other than the reasoning mind itself, ever provided to humanity.
—Edward O. Wilson
Do we not already sing our love for and obligation to the land of the free and the home of the brave? Yes, but just what and whom do we love? Surely not the soil, which we are sending helter-skelter downriver. Certainly not the waters, which we assume have no function except to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage. Certainly not the plants, of which we exterminate whole communities without batting an eye. Certainly not the animals, of which we have already extirpated many of the largest and most beautiful species.
One for the Tea Party:
I don’t mind paying taxes. They buy me civilization.
—Oliver Wendell Holmes
Lastly, in the true spirit of Earth Day:
Do not let spacious plans for a new world divert your energies from saving what is left of the old.