The Columbia Earth Day celebration was rained out last week. Seems fitting, in a way.
is the epitome of recycling: Raindrop to stream, stream to ocean, ocean
to cloud, cloud back to raindrop. Repeat for a million years or so.
April, I was wearing the symbol myself and part of the organizing team
for Earth Day 1 at Shasta College in my hometown, Redding, CA. I have
seldom felt so proud as when I carried the giant θ-emblazoned flag as we
marched through downtown.
I tell that story to my
students now and their eyes roll. Few know what “Earth Day” means – nor
do they care. I suppose I should be upset, but I’m strangely pleased.
Their ambivalence means that hippie-haired gaggle of protesters in 1970
succeeded. We changed the world.
Day did not arise to promote hemp seed, belly dancing and henna
tattoos. It came on the heels of warnings by Rachel Carson, Paul Ehrlich
and others that we might not make it to our dotage unless we started
taking care of our world.
In my hometown, the lumber
mills burned their waste in huge “teepee burners,” which likely were not
as bad as the noxious clouds from the burning garbage dump. Clear
Creek, near my home, was anything but and lined by 20-foot-high rows of
gravel left behind by the dredges that plowed the valley for gold
The national picture was bleaker. I remember
my eyes burned and I hacked up brown gook while visiting Los Angeles.
The Potomac in our capital was known as the river you could smell before
seeing. Bald eagles were fantasy creatures – on the verge of extinction
from the effects of DDT pesticide.
So we marched. Better yet, we voted. And year by year, life not only went on, it got better.
my students watch bald eagles glide over the Missouri River, put their
cans in city-provided recycling bags and think DDT is a rap group.
And Earth Day? Just a rain delay. The anger
was mostly gone, replaced by gardeners, solar panel salesmen and kids
with face paint. But you can’t keep a good movement down.
Like a raindrop.