Spring always forces me to appreciate the Earth. Today, cumulus clouds sprinkle a sea-blue sky. The Dogwood trees are showing off their white flowers and exposing the greenest of leaves. The Azaleas are a perfect shade of fuchsia. Hummingbirds flutter about singing their sacred song of spring, and bees are buzzing in chorus. The sun is a golden ball of blessed regality perched at its highest peak, sweet-talking us out of our homes to bask in the glory of nature.
Quite sure the grass will feel cool and lush underneath my bare feet. No one can deny how spectacular it is.
But just like the 25,000 average breaths we take each day, our health, our sanity and even our freedom, we take our Earth for granted. We presume that regardless of the damage we inflict upon our Earth, it will always be here. We're involved in an abusive relationship where humanity and nature are in a steady struggle. Humanity—with all of our clever inventions, hunger for power, impatient and inconsiderate attitudes—is causing tremendous stress on our natural resources. We cannot expect a harmonious relationship with the environment if we constantly and irreverently inflict poison upon it. As Al Gore puts it in "An Inconvenient Truth," "What we take for granted might not be here for our children."
In 1962, Rachel Carson published "Silent Spring" and exposed an innocent nation to pesticide poisoning and people dying from "hidden poisons lurking in what had previously been a benign environment." Also in 1962, Sen. Gaylord Nelson from Clear Lake, Wis., became openly passionate about raising awareness of environmental issues in the political community. Although he convinced President John F. Kennedy to go on a Conservation Tour, the media did not give it much coverage and, in turn, did not raise public awareness as he had hoped. After eight years advancing the cause of saving the environment, he had the idea for Earth Day.
On April 22, 1970, Nelson and a group of organizers witnessed, in awe, as 20 million Americans joined to express their common concerns.
Twenty-five years after the first Earth Day, Nelson, then 79, gave 34 speeches in three months. "The theme of each speech was the same: Forging and maintaining a sustainable society is the challenge for this and all generations to come." Twelve years later, Earth Day has swelled to involve billions of concerned individuals feverishly spreading knowledge on the subjects of global warming and sustainability.
Mostafa Tolba, chairman of the Commission on Sustainable Development writes: "Achieving sustainable development is perhaps one of the most difficult and one of the most pressing goals we face. It requires, on the part of all of us, commitment, action, partnerships and, sometimes, sacrifices of our traditional life patterns and personal interests."
I believe that in order to develop this mind-set we must start at home.
Most of us would consider our homes a safe haven. However, home is not only where the heart is but were the toxins are as well. Our homes, offices and schools are literally killing us. Indoor air pollution is on the Environmental Protection Agency's list of top five risks to public health list. According to the EPA, the air inside our homes typically contains levels of pollutants two to five times higher than the air outside our homes, and in extreme cases, 100 times more contaminated. After painting or cleaning with toxic substances found in popular products, these levels can climb to 1,000 times more contaminated than the air outside.
An environmental awareness Web site, http://www.annieappleseedproject.org says: "In one study of Volatile Organic Compounds, a class of airborne chemical toxins, the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that while outdoor air at sampled sites contained less than 10 VOCs, indoor air at those same sites contained 150 VOCs. The National Academy of Sciences estimated that indoor air pollution costs our country between $15 and $100 billion each year in related health care costs. There are hundreds of VOCs capable of causing everything from neurological and organ damage to cancer. Interestingly, many victims of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities think their troubles began with an exposure to VOCs."
VOCs, which include paint thinners, dry cleaning solvents, methane, gasoline and natural gas, are chemical compounds that vaporize and enter the atmosphere under normal conditions. The EPA cites common effects of VOCs ranging from headaches and eye and throat irritation to asthma, liver damage, severe allergic reactions and cancer in humans and animals.
The EPA's recommendations for steps to reduce exposure of these harmful chemicals all involve careful use of these same chemicals, but I am more in favor of using simple, natural products that cause no adverse effects to begin with.
Almost everything in your home can be effectively cleaned using vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice. Although using these products calls for a bit more elbow grease, reduction in the amount of chemicals we use to clean can provide profound health and environmental benefits. Look for "recipes" on http://www.greenpeace.org, http://www.idealbite.com, and http://www.eco-me.com
Pesticides, hazardous waste, mercury, oil spills and nuclear waste all contribute to global pollution. The good news is that we can take actions to eliminate these threats, just as we've taken actions to produce them. We can survive through sustainability. To protect and save our environment, our way of thinking must change. Find simple ways to reduce the negative effects on the environment in and outside your home at http://www.stopglobalwarming.com
Resources: http://www.envirolink.com, University of Missouri-Columbia, Political Science page, The Wilderness Society, http://www.stresslesscountry.com,http://www.annieappleseeproject.com, http://www.stopglobalwarming.com