Earth Day 2013: Are we doing enough?

Earth Day 2013 came and went. But was the message even heard?

The Linn County Landfill also has a recycle center, where you can recycle most anything, even hazardous materials. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

The Linn County Landfill also has a recycle center, where you can recycle most anything, even hazardous materials. (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

Earth Day was started in 1970 to remind the Earth’s inhabitants that they need to take better care of their planet.

It was celebrated in my community with EcoFest 2013, held Saturday in the NewBo district in downtown Cedar Rapids. Those who attended enjoyed interactive art and educational activities, eco-product and eco-practice demonstrations, and health and fitness challenges. They also learned  fun ways to reduce and reuse personal and household items.

The Indian Creek Nature center held a program for preschoolers to learn how to be more earth-friendly and make a fun craft out of recyclable materials.

Mount Mercy University welcomed activist, author, and environmentalist, Julia Butterfly Hill, who spent two years living in trees to protest their destruction. I wish I could have attended, but a fellow blogger did, and he writes about his experience in his blog.

I know I’m not perfect. I drive a car every day, spewing carbons into  the air. I don’t litter, but I don’t recycle everything that I should. I buy plastic bottles and I use plastic bags. And I’m not really sure what to do with Styrofoam.

My efforts to help preserve Earth have not been all they can be, and I know it. I’m even a little ashamed.

I celebrated Earth Day by taking papers and cardboard to the recycling center, but it as I drove County Home Road on my return trip from the landfill and recycle center, I was reminded of how little our efforts have been.  Litter filled the ditches along the road and I was a little disgusted that we let this happen.

I sometimes see people throwing cigarette butts, wrappers, and garbage out their car windows and I cringe, because they have no idea what that is doing to our environment. Not only does the litter create a health hazard to our wildlife, but it’s also an eyesore.

Some people say, “Everyone else does it,” trying to put the responsibility on someone else.

But like my mom has told me many times (because sometimes it takes a while), “Just because everyone does it, it doesn’t make it right.”

It’s everyone’s responsibility to take care of our planet.

If more people knew the damage they were doing by throwing trash out the car window or inundating our landfills, maybe they would take the first step into changing their own habits.

People learn by example, and if we show others how important it is to take care of our world,  we could change the mindset of millions.

All it takes is one person to decide that, “Today is the day I take better care of the world I live in.”

Can you just imagine the impact it would have on our environment?

We live in a world that has come to rely on convenience. But is that worth the price we pay for the damage we are causing to our Earth?

Global warming isn’t a myth

I wrote an editorial a few weeks ago about how global warming is real but there are still so many people who don’t believe it or simply don’t care.

Carbons and other gases that we are emitting into our atmosphere through factories and vehicles are suffocating our environment. Our ice caps and glaciers are melting at an accelerated rate (especially in the last decade) and if we don’t figure out a way to slow it down, the rising water could affect parts of New Orleans and Miami.

I’m not perfect; I drive a car, I don’t always recycle, and I’m not always environmentally conscious. But I do believe that if more people understood that what we do today will affect our children and grandchildren’s future, they would take it more seriously.

Unfortunately, it seems as though the majority of the world would rather ignore it than deal with it. Many people believe that China’s sudden industrial revolution is the cause of the increase in greenhouse gases, and they may add to it, but they are not the cause.

According to National Geographic, the U.S. has been emitting these gases for a longer period, making us the leader in gas emissions.

But at a time when we should be finding more cleaner ways to produce energy, we are still polluting the atmosphere, making it tougher to fight the effects of greenhouse gases and global warming.

What is our part is all this?

No one expects us to drop what we’re doing and go back to the caveman days. But we do need to be more conscious about how our actions affect the planet. We can recycle, ride a bike or bus to work (or car-pool), buy items that are more environmentally friendly, or buy reusable containers for water and drinks, reducing the need for plastic bottles.

We can also support programs that introduce cleaner energy, including wind, solar, and water power. Many people are concerned about using nuclear power, but if we could figure out a way to dispose of the waste, it could possible be the best kind of clean energy we have.

Global warming is real. It isn’t just an excuse used to scare people into taking care of the environment. If we don’t take care of the Earth now, we may not have to deal with the consequences, but our future generations will.

And if we don’t care, what is that teaching our children?