March 14, 2021
… preaching to the choir, and a few new songs
Every year on April 22, Earth Day asks us to take the environment personally. From its modest beginnings in 1970, the idea has grown and spread. In the recent past, sponsors of “the world’s largest environmental service campaign” estimated that more than a billion people in 192 countries observed Earth Day. Nothing else attracts that kind of audience except religious holidays, royal weddings and the World Cup final.
Of course, COVID restrictions have put an end to the mass events in the last two years. Though the official organizers promised “days of climate action” the workshops, panel discussions, and special performances were almost all electronic. And none of it looked really new. In fact, it seemed to be a whole lot of preaching to the choir – thousands, maybe even millions of people staring at screens while other people shouted familiar slogans for the video cameras or sang the 21st century version of protest songs.
Earth Day observances are supposed to involve useful work in the community. All over the world, people still turn out in small groups to plant trees and gardens, clean beaches and streambeds, and set up composting and recycling facilities. Perhaps the Earth Day organization’s most useful contribution to restoring the earth is the Canopy Project, started in 2010.
Over the last decade the Canopy Project, with the support of international corporate partners and donor agencies, has planted “tens of millions” of trees, primarily in Africa, Europe and Asia. Project plantings are done in areas stripped bare by natural disasters, wars and human carelessness. . Trees are a good defense against the worst effects of climate change. They trap greenhouse gases, cool and purify the air, hold fragile soil together and reduce the danger of flooding. In many of the Canopy Project communities they will also be a source of food and income.
This year’s official theme is “Investing in Our Planet”. Organizers seem to favour renewable energy, restorative agriculture, electric cars, plant-based diets and making climate change and environmental subjects compulsory for schools. What’s new in the messages for governments and companies is the very strong suggestion that’s what’s good for the environment is also good for the bottom line, whether it’s sales or votes. Decisions we make when we shop – like buying locally produced goods and refusing extra packaging – can influence business policies. Other simple and inexpensive actions – turning up at public meetings, or signing petitions – can influence government decisions.
For individuals, investing in the planet isn’t just a matter of donating to a worthy cause --- though becoming a member of the Marine Park Trust is a very good place to start. (See our website or call 876-952-5619 for details.) Growing our own food is an idea that’s gaining traction in Jamaica. This week’s Montpelier Agricultural Show (returning after a two-year gap) featured a wide variety of herb and vegetable seedlings available for small farmers and backyard gardeners. In Saint Ann, the Minard Hill 4H Club will hold an Earth Day Culcha Fest, with the proceeds funding scholarships and training for young people seeking careers in farming and agri-business.
The world can’t be what it was, but it can be better than it is. There are lots of small things that each of us can do to help. Waste less, recycle and compost what you can, dispose of your trash safely, plant a tree or a garden, save rainwater, and help your neighbours to do the same. In a lot of science fiction stories, the starving diseased remnants of humanity fight each other over the last scraps of food or medicine. We could go that way, but we don’t have to.