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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : opinions : editorials May 1, 2016

4/20/2013 1:03:00 PM
Editorial: Saving the Earth ... for what?

Monday is Earth Day. It’s the 44th year that concerned people around the world will engage in activities to celebrate the Earth, to cleanup the Earth, to save the Earth.

But to save the Earth for what?

In the 2012 book “Visit Sunny Chernobyl,” Andrew Blackwell wrote an entertaining and meticulous account of his travels to the world’s most polluted places. It was in Port Arthur, Texas, that he learned “sometimes the problem isn’t how much pollution there is, but who ends up living with it.”

Efforts to tidy up the world are not just pointed at future generations but at people and all creatures living here today - at us. Any company that puts making a buck ahead of the health and welfare of its neighbors is a danger. Those neighbors who would sacrifice their own health and “live with it” for the prospect of such a company bringing money to a community are even more dangerous.

That happens around the globe. It has a long history. It was also one of the elements that instigated the Earth Day movement.

Contrary to popular belief, Earth Day was not just the domain of a bunch of no-account “hippies” or college campus radicals in 1970. It was a movement by a general populace tired of seeing trash in their forests, poisons in the rivers, and brown air enshrouding our major cities.

Though it seemed to take a long time to make a dent in all of this (some might remember Johnny Carson’s account of the morning he went outside, took a deep breath “and chipped a tooth”), the general level of smog and pollutants has visibly changed. Cities like Pittsburgh and Los Angeles simply do not look the same as they did in the 1970s.

Today, as more and more of the original Earth Day-ers get wrapped up in the controversial debate about “global warming” and “climate change,” there is still a massive, day-to-day battle that must continue against basic litter and waste. And while there is an annoying notion that if mankind could just be removed from Earth’s environment none of this global warming would be happening, mankind is an intrinsic part of the planet. We did not arrive from outer space.

“A paradox of the conservation movement,” Blackwell writes, “is that it both depends on personal experience of nature for its motivation - and clings to the idea that modern humans have no place in a truly natural world.”

Our best place in the natural world is preserving it - stopping unnatural damage before it starts, fixing the damage that has already occurred and building a healthy life in accordance with natural law.

We like to think we are saving the Earth for our children and grandchildren. In our finest efforts, though, we are saving the Earth for ourselves.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, April 21, 2013
Article comment by: Frank Lee Confused

I don't have children but if I did I'd feel the responsibility to pass on an environment at least as good as the one I inherited.

Parents are so concerned with their children's safety, perhaps they should extend that concern for the environment their children and grandchildren will live in.

If you can't remember how unhealthy things can get without federal emission standards and environmental regulations, google: Beijing smog

By the way, China is where all the stuff you buy at Walmart comes from.
No environmental regulation = Everyday low prices... until the environmental bill comes due.

Posted: Sunday, April 21, 2013
Article comment by: Excellent perspective

Excellent perspective in this editorial, and one that I support wholeheartedly.

But this perspective hasn't always been the case from this newspaper. Apparently there's been something of a change of heart, and that's welcome.

We recall many years ago when this newspaper complained about the big to-do to save habitat for the endangered cliffrose, a species that lives near the Verde River in the Bridgeport area and basically nowhere else in the world.

Conserving a small piece of land for this endangered species was holding up the Mingus extension. The editorial groused about how something as insignificant as a puny little plant like the cliffrose could be responsible for holding up such an big project with such important benefits for people.

People first over insignificant plants and animals was the argument, and many still abide by that thinking today.

But the better more responsible perspective is it's not so much these puny insignificant plants and animals as it is their habitat that's important to conserve. Though one never knows what puny insignificant plant might one day yield the cure for cancer.

More important is the finding that we ourselves as people are just as dependent on all the Earth's various habitats and seemingly insignificant life forms as are these endangered plants and animals.

We are all connected in a vast web of life. Remove any one link and the entire chain is affected. Including ourselves.

So the editor is right. In responsibly conserving and protecting our land, we are ultimately saving the Earth for ourselves, and all that follow.

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