An American female, on average, has a life span of 81 years. This equates to 29,565 days. And for the males? They live an average of 76 years, or 27,740 days. Minus childhood (ages 0-18), these numbers still compute to a hefty 22,995 and 21,170 days, respectively.
A ridiculous amount of opportunities to do something, anything, helpful for the planet, no? That orb supporting our every breath, our every dollar exchange, our every swig of beer, our every kiss, our every mouthful of fried calamari, our every status update and win at Call of Duty: Black Ops. Or, if we’re tired or bummed or stuck in a Groundhog’s Day rut and not feeling especially fired up and go-get-em, at least there is a constant chance to do less harm, trod a little softer and have an effect simply by not impacting so forcefully.
The daily to-do list, as dictated by the forest and fern fronds. Photo by author.
Earth-Day-the-official-holiday began on April 22, 1970 in the wake of catalyzing events, notably the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 and Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River catching on fire in 1969 because the water was filled with industrial chemicals. This first celebration was largely credited with launching a new movement to protect the natural world. Environmental legislation that is easily taken for granted now, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, became policy soon afterward.
People were mobilized. Today, Earth Day is celebrated in 192 countries. It is the most accessible of holidays: the seven billion and non-stop counting of us Homo sapiens certainly don’t all observe the same religion or pledge allegiance to the same government, but we are all Earthlings. It’s humanity’s common bond, like it or not. It could be argued further that Earth Day is even more inclusive than that, at least theoretically encompassing the 8.7 million-plus “discovered” non-human animal, plant and fungi species as well as the watersheds, atmosphere and rocks.
“Dogwoods Blooming Through a Rainbow Web” courtesy of Joye Green Photography. As Ralph Waldo Emerson famously put it: “The earth laughs in flowers.”
Some of us are far from caring a wit about the health of the planet. Others will protect it for utilitarian reasons, understanding that without its free gifts or “services”, human culture won’t survive very long or very well. Still there are those who feel this dynamic blue-green marble, with its systems and its creatures, is an end in itself, regardless of the presence or absence of human civilization. Philosophy and politics muddle the issue, creating laughable and more often disheartening debate, but do we really have a choice? Gloriously, no. To borrow, in part, from an old pro-war slogan: “The Earth: Love it or Leave It.”
For those of us sticking around, we have over 20,000 days, each one of us, to celebrate our own independence while honoring our irrevocable interdependence. What a crazy opportunity.Leading photo: “Raindrop Addiction” courtesy of Joye Green Photography. As she writes, “Give me a sunny morning after a rainstorm and you will find me laying on my back in the mud with my macro lens trying to capture the temporary jewels that appear all over my garden. This series of photos are especially meaningful as they were taken during the first good rain during our drought in California. This photo is an excellent reminder of how precious water is.”
Katherine Renz is a graduate student in North Cascades Institute and Western Washington University’s M.Ed. program. Though ruled by Mars, if she had to leave Earth she would choose Saturn as her preferred outer space planetary real estate.