Earth Day: It’s Not Nice to Fool with Mother Nature

Since last year’s Earth Day, Mother Nature has really been in her element. She gave us an awesome solar eclipse in August but then slammed us with two hurricanes – Harvey and Maria – one which hurt south Texas and the other devastating Puerto Rico. Within the last year, our planet has suffered from heatwaves, droughts, and flooding. What are we to make of it all?

People were pretty excited about the solar eclipse. Millions of Americans stood in awe over the majesty of a planetary event. That is as it should be. The Earth is our home and, although it can seem ordinary on a daily basis, it’s something greater than ourselves. Our planet can give us wonderful events like a solar eclipse or it can send terrible catastrophes. Perhaps it is this vastness that makes people doubt humans can have a significant impact on the environment. Maybe our planet seems so impressive that it’s hard to imagine our daily activities making a dent in the Earth’s functioning. But they do.

Global temperatures have been steadily increasing since the 1970s. Sixteen of our hottest years have occurred since 2001 and, as a result, sea levels are rising. Just ask the people of the Solomon Islands who’ve had to relocate or the residents of Miami where flood prevention is big business. This heat, flooding and increase in major environmental disasters are driving some of the international refugee crises and it will get worse. That’s why the military designated climate change a threat to our national security.

In some places, even the air that we breathe is bad. The DFW area is among the 25 most polluted by ozone cities in the country and our air quality was given an F by the American Lung Association. We are in an environmental emergency yet, despite all scientific evidence of humans damaging the planet, many people continue to deny the truth of what we can see and feel because of politics.

It wasn’t always that way. In 1968, astronaut Bill Anders took the now-famous Earthrise picture, a color view of the Earth just touching the horizon. The picture showed the beauty of our planet in full color and, with the surrounding blackness, demonstrated just how alone we are in the universe. People realized the importance of our planet to our survival and the environmental movement was born. Their efforts mattered because every bit of conservation, environmental cleanup and reduction in usage has a positive effect.

Since our first Earth Day, we have improved our planet though making water safer, protecting endangered species, banning chemicals like DDT, plugging the ozone hole, phasing out asbestos, increasing use of renewable energy, cleaning the air and more. Even DFW’s endeavors paid off as our pollution by ozone ranking dropped from 7th highest in the nation in 2014 down to 13th. There’s still so much more that every person can do that will make a difference. Most of it isn’t even that difficult.

To get started, become educated through the many movies, podcasts, books and websites out there. Then volunteer with a group that works on the causes important to you. Not only will you be helping the Earth but you’ll also be meeting a community of thoughtful people and having fun. Environmental activism is anything but boring! These days, there are so many ways to do activism that you can put your creativity, sense of humor and passion to work. You’ll probably find a sense of purpose as well.

Watching parts of our country become completely dark during daytime due to the eclipse was awe-inspiring. It was fun but also forced us to recognize just how dependent we are upon the whims of our planet. And if we needed another lesson in its power, all we have to do is remember the Gulf Coast drowning under the weight of wind and water and continue to do what we can to help the people of Puerto Rico. The time for us to act is now. We must change the way we live in order to survive. But even if you still don’t believe the Earth needs your help, why not get involved anyway? What can it hurt? Earth Day is this Sunday and there will be tons of events where you can participate in improving our environment. If I’m wrong, you’ve lost nothing. But if I’m right, you’ll be saving our planet.

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