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Today is Earth Day.

The 40th Earth Day.

And, I'm feeling old, thinking back to that first Earth Day back in 1970.  

Composted then. Ditto today.

Turned lights off when not required back then. Ditto today.

Contacted politicians advocating the benefits of a clean energy future in 1970. Ditto today.

Those dittos aren't isolated to one day per year, less than 0.3% of the past 40 years, but are actually evolving life habits.

While far (FAR) from a sustainable role model, living at a sustainable level, the past 40 years have been a voyage of embedding smarter habits into life, seeking to be better today than yesterday. And, I will strive to be better today than yesterday ... which makes Earth Day a day like any other.

In 40 years, we've seen change ...

Let's be quite clear, in the past 40 years, I've (we've) seen quite a bit of change.

In 1970, those political contacts were carefully written on lined paper, writing Republican members of Congress (like Mac Mathias) who were counted among the leaders on developing environmental policy. Today, quickly typed emails to Republicans who seem to think that the environment is simply a playground to "drill, baby, drill" and who are increasingly infected with increasingly severe cases of anti-science syndrome (think Ken "Kook" Cuccinelli).

Compared to 1970, American rivers don't seem to burn as often (thank you Clean Water Act) and there is an awful lot less lead in the air (thank you Clean Air Act) ... Wow, government action that improves our lives within investments that ended up costing far (FAR) less than projected by adversaries with benefits far greater than projected even by advocates. (Anyone thinking that there is a parallel between these and climate mitigation legislation is, sadly, all too right: the adversaries have no shame in exaggerating the costs and advocates/allies seem terrified of honestly discussion the full extent of benefits).

But, I digress ...

A day like any other ...

Earth Day matters ... after all, this is a blog post as part of a series of Earth Day blogs.  But, I blog every day ...

Today, I wake my young son up early since he is doing a elementary school-wide broadcast about earth day, having been selected by his teacher for this.  And, this third grader's summary line on his "Earth Day" poster?  "People treat the earth like its the enemy."  But, he makes me proud every day, with a developed sense that he can do his share with, for example, a well-developed habit of picking up some trash as he walks around. (Last summer, in a hike in the woods, I ended up carrying something like 20 lbs of glass and metals as he kept saying "Dad, can't you carry just one more back for recycling." He was proud about helping clean that corner of a National Park.) A day like any other day.

This afternoon, I will give a Climate Project presentation to my son and some 100 of his classmates.  But, I seek to inform, engage, and activate others about climate and energy issues every day.

Today, I will check the developing raspberries and strawberries in the garden, put water on the seedlings (from basil to tomatoes to melons to ...) in the house, plan out a larger garden.

I will take stairs rather than elevators (did you know that elevators are, as I just learned, the most efficient form of powered transport ... and they're getting better), eat less meat then I might have just a few years ago, work without office lights (as long as there is enough daylight...), reclaim a thrown-away can or such for recycling, and ... I will contact politicians and write (blog posts, letters to the editor, ....).

And, I will seek to change myself -- and others -- for the better.

It will be a day worthy of conscious choices about mitigating my (and others) impact while seeking to live a rich life.

It will be a day like any other ...

40 years of habits ...

40 years ... it adds up.  To be clear, while not claiming a spot as a global poster child of sustainable virtuosity, how much black soil rather than landfill accumulation from composting? How many megawatts of power averted due to recycling (others') cans and bottles? How ... much difference a life-time of choices can make?

Having a "Day" helps draw attention and can serve as a rallying point to help foster real change. But, if that "day" simply flits by, without meaningful sustained action, it is like a holiday ornament to be pulled out for temporary amusement to then be put away and forgotten until the next holiday occasion comes around. To 'celebrate' Earth Day with robust consumerism (do you have special "Earth Day" plastic cups?), feeling contented with oneself for 'sacrificing' for the planet for an hour without light, to then move on to the next thing is less than meaningless.  The meaning, truly, is captured in a seemingly trite way: if you have any understanding of the challenges before us (and the opportunities that exist), you will treat every day as Earth Day. And, thus, this is simply a day like any other.

If Earth Day is too exhausting ... then tomorrow ...

Well, for one day a year, some people 'wear green' on their sleeve, feeling as if that one day of sacrifice by recycling those cans they normally throw out has done their share of saving the planet.

For those needing a day of recovery, 23 April is "Fock the Earth Day"

Photo credit: Earth in palm of hand, alicepopkorn

Originally posted to A Siegel on Thu Apr 22, 2010 at 03:16 AM PDT.

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