Sunday is Earth Day, or as the United Nations deemed in 2009, International Mother Earth Day.
Presently there are 7 billion passengers on this Spaceship Earth, all of them dependent on her for air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat. What a marvelous ship it is. Of all the celestial bodies in our sky, we live on the only one we know capable of supporting life. We need to do all we can to keep her that way.
Earth is a fragile ecological organism, a balanced and mutually dependent relationship between water, air, soil and lifeforms. Left alone, there is a harmony, a balance and a beauty. Enter the human. Without question we have had a significant effect on the planet’s ecological health. For the most part, it’s not been good.
So much we’ve done for short-term economic gain has or will come back to haunt us. Alterations of the Mississippi River by the Army Corps of Engineers and the efforts of oil and gas interests eliminated freshwater marshes that in the past served as a buffer — a speed bump, if you will — for hurricanes blowing in from the Gulf.
New Orleans and the Gulf Coast paid the price when Katrina slammed ashore in 2005.
Our appetite for big cars comes at a cost far beyond what we pay at the pump. Our dependence on foreign oil has had tremendous economic, environmental and political consequences.
According to one report, the United States is spending about $1 billion a day overseas on oil instead of investing the funds at home, where our economy sorely needs it. Burning oil that exacerbates global warming also poses serious threats to our national security and the world’s security.
We import oil from, and thus bolster, the economies of countries deemed dangerous and unstable by the State Department. According to CIA figures, U.S. oil consumption is declining, from a high of 20.7 million barrels per day in 2004 to about 19 million barrels per day in 2010. Still, the U.S. uses more oil than the next three largest consumers — China, Japan and India — combined. All of us share in this excess.
What can we as individuals do to preserve the planet? It seems obvious, but the answer is consume less — burn less gasoline, recycle, urge fast food retailers to use less paper, make our homes more efficient, use less water … almost everywhere you look in American life there are opportunities to use less. The Internet is full of suggestions how.
Earth Day offers a welcome and needed reminder of what a delicate and precious organism our mother planet happens to be. It’s something we should remember every day.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.