Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.
April 22, is Earth Day.
It is a noble and important effort. First observed in 1970, Earth Day is dedicated to the basic notion that this planet should be treated with respect.
But it is not an entirely altruistic goal. After all, we need this planet far more than it needs us. At a minimum, to survive we need such basics as clean water, breathable air, food that will sustain us and shelter from the elements.
But our human spirit, our intelligence and our imaginations need more than that. We depend on nature’s beauty to make us fully human. If you doubt that, think what type of life it be without the ocean, without green fields and mountains and valleys and lakes and rivers. Or, for that matter, without songbirds? Or blue crabs? Or oysters?
What type of life would we fortunate enough to live in coastal Georgia have if we were unable to see sunlight filtering through Spanish moss? Who would want to live in a Georgia without live oak trees, without the barrier islands or the marsh -- or the sand hills where gopher tortoises and Indigo snakes make their homes? Those things do not live in a vacuum, and neither do we.
Further, most of us will probably agree that if we had to live all our life surrounded by asphalt and concrete and plastic and steel, it would not be a pleasant existence.
Fortunately, that doesn’t seem a possibility -- yet.
Still, for all our achievements in science and technology, for all the suddenly popular push to “go green,” we’re still far from living in harmony with the world around us. And it’s been showing for years.
Our over reliance on plastic bags and plastic bottles has helped create floating garbage patches in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. And whether you believe man is the cause of global warming or not, there’s evidence that the climate is changing and the earth is getting warmer.
It would seem smart to take steps to lessen o ur footprint in that regard and others, but many continue to push back against the idea of reducing our stamp on this planet.
What’s more, despite the still relatively pristine condition of portions Georgia’s coast, continued development is making inroads. Blackwater rivers such as the beautiful Ogeechee were named one of the South’s Top 10 endangered places for 2010 by the Southern Environmental Law Center, thanks in part to the recently OK’d coal-fired power plant in Washington County. As the SELC notes, “Emissions and wastewater from the plant would add more mercury to the nearby Ogeechee River, which is already so polluted with the toxin that the state health department limits the amount of fish that should be eaten from the river.”
Actually, Georgia made the Top 10 list twice this year -- right whale calving waters off both the Georgia and Florida coast are imperiled, due to Navy plans to build an undersea training range in the area.
There are more reasons for concern. Atlanta’s seemingly ever-growing thirst could eventually have repercussions for the rest of the state, impacting our rivers still more. And continued development along the coast is likely, which will increase the pressure not only on resources but also those species with which we share the planet, especially as we look to find ways to dispose of our various forms of waste. Man, after all, is a messy creature and the more of us their are, the more waste we’ll create.
There’s hope, however. There’s always hope. That there is an Earth Day and it has lasted 40 years is one sign of that hope.