Next month will be the forty-fifth anniversary of Earth Day. The first Earth Day was held on April 22 1970. I remember that day well. I was a part of a group of high school students who were collecting cans, bottles, newspapers and other items in the neighborhood surrounding Benjamin Franklin High school. These items were taken to the first recycling center that was organized in our area of Portland, Or. I was very excited and happy about being a part of a movement that was designed to preserve the environment and create a better likeable world.
Years later, I would encounter one of my early challenges to my environmentalist commitment. I was serving as the Protestant Chaplain at the US Naval Hospital in Okinawa, Japan. On this particular day during hospital ward visitation, I met with an evangelical Protestant Air Force Chaplain. He was recuperating from recent surgery. There he was sitting up in his bed in regulation Air Force blue pajamas, food tray beside him with his own phone.
I thought "this guy has his own office here. He obviously is not going to let a little thing like sickness get in the way of his work for the Lord. "
At one point in our conversation, I think we were talking about the beauty of Okinawa and how increased numbers of people could eventually threaten its beauty.
I think that I said to him, "I'm concerned about population growth in the world."
I will never forget his answer.
"Why worry about that? Alaska is not full yet? "
I nearly fell over. Was this guy kidding? I then realized that this guy was serious.
Now keep in mind this was pre-Palin attitude regarding Alaska.
I thought "the polar bears and the moose will be in trouble with this guy. "
Forty-five years later, we are still having challenges with regard to protecting the world's environment. Despite attempts like the Kyoto accord on CO2 emissions and subsequent conferences, we still have a major problem trying to control harmful chemicals in the air that we breathe. China and India, courtesy of globalization, have become major polluters and growing economic titans based upon their ever increasing use of fossil fuels.
We still have politicians and others who deny global warming, who are even squeamish when it is referred to as "climate change. " Remember, it was our previous President who didn't want to refer to the change in temperatures and water levels as "global warming,
You could imagine him thinking to himself
"No that would tick off my friends and supporters in the oil industry and who needs those scientists anyway? Let's refer to it as climate change; it has a nicer sound, not so harsh. "
What incredible bunk and incredible spin!
What will it take for world leaders and governments to realize that we have to really do some significant about global warming now? The summer of 2011 was recorded as the hottest summer on record for the United States and with it came devastating drought for the Great Plains and for the Southwest, particularly hitting Texas hard with massive shrinking of lakes and heavy costs in the loss of livestock and wild life. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 did significant damage to the eastern United States and to coastal beach erosion.
The record breaking snow storms that we have seen in the Northeast this winter have done serious damage to housing and to local businesses and now there will concern about potential epoch flooding this spring.
Yet, we hear the voices of those would say
"Alaska is not full yet! "
There is positive movement now with the current administration's policy now on hydraulic fracking. The complications that fracking has caused including waste water from fracking activity polluting other water resources and also how water supplies of some rural communities have been exhausted has been well documented. In Texas and Pennsylvania, there have been concerns about the potential relationship between hydraulic fracking and the increased frequency of earthquakes.
No area has been exempt from this activity. One cemetery in Fort Worth, TX even had hydraulic fracking going on beneath buried dead corpses.
As my mother Alma Bauer would have said
"You're not even safe when you're dead. "
I hope that we can regain the promise of those early days of the Environmental movement. I hope that we can see more recycling, more conservation of resources, and more development of technologies for energy that will not depend on fossil materials. I hope that Alaska and other places will not become full and that those who are " full of themselves " might become more humble and know that we all need to save our Earth now for us and for those who will follow.