Earth Week 2023 Day 1: Why Earth Day?

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Each day this week, United For Justice will be sharing “Tips for Light Footsteps on Mother Earth.” These are also posted on Sandy Wilmot’s blog, where you can find even more posts on “What’s Up With the Climate.”

Today starts our weeklong series on tips for light footsteps on Mother Earth by considering why earth day is part of our yearly calendar. Where did it come from and what are we supposed to do on Earth Day? Many of our Vermont traditions, like Green Up Day, are not practiced across the U.S. nor the world. So, Earth Day is one day that all nations are connected in calling for actions that keep our planet healthy.

Earth Day began when US Senator Gaylord Nelson witnessed the effects of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, CA in 1969. He called to action all Americans to take a stand for the environment in 1970, and thousands of colleges and universities across the United States organized protests for a healthy, sustainable Earth. This included cleaning up air pollution from factories and freeways, as well as reducing the loss of habitats for animals and animal extinction. Because of these national rallies, the first Earth Day helped create the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts into law. Some members of our congregation have fond memories of the first Earth Day, here in Vermont or across the U.S. in California.

Twenty years later, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Imagine how much we can accomplish collectively!

Today we see the need to reinvigorate the call for environmental protections in the U.S. and all nations as we work together to reign in our overuse of fossil fuels and exploitation of natural resources. Tips for light footsteps in this post are about having our voices heard in local government. Our town and state government and committees are very easy to talk to and need our voices to know how to act.

1. Find out what your town energy committees are doing by reading minutes or agendas from some of their meetings. There are links on town websites. If you see something of interest, email or call the committee members to find out more. Asking questions is free.

2. Find out what Smart Growth actions your town is pursuing. Smart Growth includes policies that make development in villages and growth areas easier, keeping our precious rural landscapes and natural resources undeveloped. Again, asking questions of your Planning Commission members or Town Administrators is free and will help them remember they are representing your interests.

3. Writing an email to any of your town or state representatives about what you want to see them working on helps direct their attention to citizen interests. This may be a town committee, selectboard, state senator or representative. It just takes a few minutes and creates an impression that helps decision making by our chosen government. The first time may feel challenging, but the more you do it the easier it becomes. They work for us.

4. Become a member of an action organization that shares your interests. I belong to Interfaith Power and Light (IPL), which has both a Vermont and National organization. This group works on climate change issues and does lots of research, so I don’t have to. They send valuable information about current issues – come gets deleted, but others prove very useful.

Earth Day is a chance to renew your resolve to be involved in making and keeping our planet sustainable for our lives and future generations.

Sandy Wilmot