Earth Day should make us all stop and think

A day which should be more significant than it is came and went recently with hardly any notice at all.

You might blame COVID-19, but honestly the pandemic is not the only reason Earth Day generates limited interest.

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Sadly, amid the naysayers and the vehement voices warning of climate change, the desire of some to end the disposal of plastics by offering alternatives, and those that seem blissfully not to care, and all the other arguments and debates about the ills of our world, most people seem at best ambivalent.

Perhaps it’s a case where as individuals we feel ill-suited to impact the changes that are being suggested.

The idea of taking a baby step and ending the use of plastic straws is met with much derision on social media as being folly against the mountains of plastics our society creates, uses, and then tosses to landfills and oceans where they exist as waste for years.

In many ways the effort to end the plastic straw does seem like emptying an ocean with a thimble, but then again we need to start somewhere. We need to remember the old story of how does one eat an elephant? The answer is one bite at a time.

The move away from plastic straws is a small first bite in dealing with a huge plastic elephant, and to extend the analogy just one step further, plastics are one of the ‘elephants in the room’ when it comes to what we are doing to our environment.

That is why the idea of Earth Day was first brought forward a half century ago, to get the world thinking about the baby steps we need to take to protect our planet. It was in 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace.

The eventual result was Earth Day, an annual event celebrated around the world on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and now includes events in more than 193 countries.

But the events seem low key, especially here on the Canadian Prairies where wide open spaces make it easy to discount humanity’s impact on the natural world.

So why should we care? Why is this worth space in a column on agriculture? The answer is simple really, we all rely on the earth and what it provides. Farmers are perhaps more aware of this than most, since they seed into the earth to reap the crops we consume to live.

Maybe next year we will pause to think of the day and its importance just a little more, even undertaking a project to make our own baby step.