Earth Day: It’s Time to Get Serious

April 22nd, 2011 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Earth Day: It’s Time to Get Serious

Happy Earth Day. It was 41 years ago today that the first Earth Day celebration took place. I actually remember it quite well. I was 16 years old, a sophomore in high school, and expecting to go to the big event in downtown Washington, D.C. I grew up in the Washington suburbs and was planning to go with my older sister and her friends. There was a mix up as to where we were supposed to meet, I missed my ride, and ended up sulking and feeling sorry for myself the rest of the day. It’s only one of two events I regret missing in my life. The other was not ever seeing the Beatles live in concert.

Later that evening, I was fortunate enough to watch Walter Cronkite’s take on the day. As with most events and issues of that time, he captured them with an elegance and an accuracy that makes it easy to understand why he was considered the most trusted man in America. In case you’re wondering what a 16 year old kid was doing watching the evening news, well, that was the norm in our household. I grew up in a pretty political family (Jewish liberal) and every evening after dinner we watched the news together. In my household (7 of us) if you didn’t talk politics at the dinner table, you were pretty much left out of the conversation. Not to mention as a 16 year-old male, soon to be of draft age, we all kept our eye on what was going on in Vietnam.

Fast forward to today (41 years later) and I’m amazed . . . no, actually stunned, at where we are with environmental issues in this country. It seems clear that our citizenry is fully engaged in wanting to solve the very serious problem of climate change and how it impacts our life. Our leaders on the hand, well, I’m not so sure. Aside from being Earth Day week, this week is also the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast. Unless you’ve been paying very close attention, you may not have seen or read much about this. After all, there are much bigger issues facing our country and dominating the news these days, like whether or not our President is really an American citizen (sarcasm).

But here’s where we stand as a country today – not one piece of environmental or energy legislation has made it out of Congress in recent years (except for the current GOP led House of Representatives which recently voted to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) altogether as part of their budget plan); and one of our two major political parties actually believes that climate change is a hoax, despite unanimous agreement amongst scientists, not only that climate change is real, but that it’s an urgent issue to be dealt with. We do indeed face a serious challenge.

I miss Walter Cronkite. We need serious people to tackle serious issues. If you want to get a glimpse of how that seriousness might look, check out this video below. It’s Walter Cronkite as I saw him on the evening of April 22, 1970.

It’s time to get serious . . . and today is a good day to begin! And keep in mind that serious is not the opposite of joy, or having fun, or joining in celebration. Nope, it’s actually what compels us to celebrate days like today in the first place. Happy Earth Day