Earth Day is one of those events that everyone recognizes but few take to heart. I know that I didn’t at first. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published the summer after I graduated from college. We all understood the problem, but it wasn’t personal. I even vaguely remember the smog deaths in Donora, PA from my early childhood. That would have been personal had I lived there, but I didn’t.
It was decades later that I began to participate in political activism, driven mainly by my sense that we were destroying that which was good in nature. The needs were becoming personal. Along the way, I met one time Republican Congressman from CA, Pete McCloskey. His was such a remarkable story that I just had to get to know him better. After all, he helped write the Endangered Species Act and, along with Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson from WI, Co-Chaired the first Earth Day in 1970. McCloskey was still active politically, seeking to purge his party of elected officials who didn’t understand that we were damaging the earth and I had started a political blog tracking the missteps of my Congressman, Richard Pombo, one of McCloskey’s targets. I had also re-registered as a Green. radually, Earth Day had a new meaning, and meeting McCloskey just made it more clear.
Fourteen years after the first Earth Day, the initial version of the Green Party’s 10 key values was hammered out. The section on Ecological Wisdom included these questions: How can we operate human societies with the understanding that we are PART of nature, not on top of it? How can we live within the ecological and resource limits of the planet, applying our technological knowledge to the challenge of an energy-efficient economy? How can we build a better relationship between cities and countryside? How can we guarantee the rights of non-human species? How can we promote sustainable agriculture and respect for self-regulating natural systems? How can we further biocentric wisdom in all spheres of life?
During my years at a “small Christian college” I learned to trust those who were asking the right questions far more than those who said they had the answers. These are still the right questions. We should use this Earth Day to redouble our effort to finding the answers for us in our time.
By Wes Rolley