As I was sitting over coffee watching the sun peek its nose over the horizon on this 22nd day of April -- the 45th anniversary of Earth Day -- I suddenly realized I wanted to say something to my fellow members of the "Aging Boomers Club":
Thank you for Earth Day. Thank you for all it has done for our remarkable planet, for our children and our children's children, and for -- and, I don't know that I have the words to overstate this -- our very future.
And thank you, too, for making today possible.
Oh, don't get me wrong, we wide-eyed, bomb-fearing, TV-addicted, Beatles-worshipping, suburb-loving, post-war Baby Boomers did not invent environmental activism. We only learned it at the knees of rugged, daring, free-thinking individualists like Teddy Roosevelt, John D. Rockefeller, Ansel Adams, Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Jacques Cousteau, John Muir, Rachel Carson, Robert Frost, Joni Mitchell and countless others.
But, make no mistake; environmentalism had never been a movement until we came along. In fact, even though we didn't conceive Earth Day in 1970, it was our generation who made it possible. Many don't know this, but when Senator Gaylord Nelson, one of the lone environmental advocates on Capitol Hill at the time, first came up with the idea of hosting an annual celebration of the Earth, her beauty and bounty of resources, he chose today -- April 22 -- because it worked in the context of that year's school calendars and class schedules.
He knew, you see, that if there was one group of people who, in 1970, were likely to take the notion of a grassroots celebration of Mother Earth and make it not only an event and media-worthy, but a recurring phenomenon, it was us -- America's students, young people and dreamers.
So, while we didn't conceive Earth Day, we certainly brought it to life. And what we've done to instill our love of this planet in the hearts of future generations has been nothing short of remarkable.
You know, I always thought my grandparents had seen so much in their lives. They sailed across the ocean and passed through the gates at Ellis Island without the ability to even speak the language. And in their time, they witnessed such things as the invention of flight, the birth of television and the explosion of the industrial age -- not to mention two world wars and a Great Depression. And I used to think how remarkable their generation had been for having come so far so fast.
But, look at our generation. We've gone from mimeograph to instant messaging, and seen first-hand the utter explosion of personal computing, wireless devices and information tonnage, along with the implosion of traditional media and all the rules that once governed them. We've seen man walk on the moon, and have been forced to learn in real time things that might have left the generation before ours stymied, if not downright paralyzed with fear.
Yet, all those things pale in comparison to how we've completely changed our attitudes toward this planet. After all, we're the generation that grew up with Love Canal, lead-based paint and DDT. We're the kids who were once taught that conspicuous consumption was a true marketplace ideal, and that things like disposable razors, pens and diapers were good things. And we're the generation that had it drilled into our impressionable young minds over and over by Madison Ave. that things like returnable glass bottles were stodgy and archaic, and that throwaway plastic ones would, somehow and in some unexplained way, make us cooler.
Yet, despite all that, look at how far we've come; not only rising above that kind of corrosive thinking, but to loving planet Earth and respecting her bounty and broad appeal. And if you don't think that's so, just pick up a copy of last Sunday's Parade magazine (maybe the very symbol of broad appeal, if not mainstream acceptance) and look at the cover. There you'll see a simple two-word phrase amid the graphic word cloud superimposed there, a celebration of the language of the environmental movement.
That phrase and those two words? "LEED Buildings."
We have indeed come a long way in what seems like a short time, my friends. To all you Gen X and Millennials who, like me, love this earth and feel compelled to protect her against those who would exploit her to their own personal gain, not to mention selfishly put her ability to provide life to future generations in jeopardy, you are to be applauded.
And to all of you Boomers my age who learned the language of environmentalism and harnessed its power -- and did so on the fly -- who lovingly passed on your respect for nature to your sons and daughters, and who, in a very real way, made this remarkable annual celebration possible in the first place, what can I say?
Except, thank you. And Happy Earth Day!
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