I grew up in a suburb outside of Philadelphia. I loved nature, but never really experienced "naked" nature. I was always in an environment created by man. Yes, the trees, flowers, shrubs and grasses, the smells in the air, the insects and wildlife, they were there to experience and marvel at, but it wasn't until I was in the very last days of my 30s that I began to realize what the planet had to offer and what we were doing to that precious gift.
It was the early "90s and I spent several weeks camping at a southern New Mexico lake with a friend. There was only one other person there, a quiet man with whom we had friendly chats. My friend and I spent the days watching the changing light, listening to the water, and walking with the wind. We picked up trash and recycling around the lake. We watched each night as the moon got more and more full and cast her path of light upon the water. Fish jumped in the moonlight and the water sparkled with light like diamonds. I started waking with the sun and going to sleep as darkness fell. I was rapidly falling in love with the world ‒ and then it happened!
More and more people were coming to the lake. The quiet was soon shattered by the sounds of generators running and TVs playing the Simpsons. It seemed so out of place after the exquisite songs of nature I had become so accustomed to hearing. Powerboats started their engines at 5:30 in the morning. People screamed and played music loudly. My previous alarm clock, the sound of the fish jumping, was too faint to be heard above the din. The water, once so pretty and clean, began to develop a black, oily sheen. One day I watched in horror as four deer frantically tried to find a way around the people who were now circling almost every inch of the lake. They finally were forced to jump in the water and swim for safety, but they had to go far to find a break on the shoreline. I was heartbroken. We had to leave the lake and head back to town. It was too hard to watch the delicate elements of nature ‒ sand, water, air, plants, and insects, sustain damage by people visiting the lake to enjoy its beauty.
In a very real way, this is what we are doing to the planet now. And we often don't realize it. We should be able to dip our hands in lakes and streams anywhere and drink the cool, fresh water. The air should be clean and healthy for our lungs. Wildlife should be respected and their homes left unharmed. Yet our cars are currently killing a million wild animals a week in the USA. What would the world be like if all these animals could live in peace with humans? This is the world I am working toward, along with millions of other people. And it is all within our reach.
There are thousands of ways to be gentle to the earth. They are simple and fun. Use a tote bag when you shop. (12 million barrels of oil and 14 million trees go into making bags used in the USA each year.) Turn your car engine off when you'll be stopped for more than 10 seconds. (It's better for your car and the planet.) Get your name off junk mail lists for free at www.directmail.com. (100 million trees are pulped each year for junk mail alone.) Resolve to reduce, reuse and recycle. (Recycling creates jobs, conserves water, protects wilderness, and lowers air pollution.) Use plant-based cleaners or make your own from simple ingredients you probably have around the house. (Go to "Green Tips" at www.moab-solutions.org for directions.) Buy pesticide-free foods for your family and see how good you'll feel.
Respect the life around you as you would your own and live in harmony with it. You will be the beneficiary. In short, make every day Earth Day and save the planet. Not only save it, but make it a place where the beauty tugs at your heart.