Earth Day Revisited

Earth Day Flag, from wikipedia
Earth Day Flag, from wikipedia

Looking Back

It’s now been 45 years since the first Earth Day was celebrated, so maybe now is a good time to take a look back and see how we are faring with our small blue planet. Even though Earth Day is not as big a deal as it used to be, environmental and ecological awareness is essential for a sane humane existence on this planet. As usual, the bad news outweighs the good news, but still I will begin with the positive.

The Good News

The good news comes mainly in the realm of development of renewable energy sources. Geothermal and hydro-electric have been around for a long time and still continue to supply portions of the current population with electricity. Geothermal is rather limited and hydro-electrical has been much criticized for its role in the deterioration of our river system. However, what is now happening is the substantial growth and improvement in quality of wind and solar power. Solar power, especially, has improved in quality and economic feasibility and as a result is a rapidly growing source of electricity in many parts of the world.

The Bad News

Unfortunately, there is plenty of bad news to go around with perhaps the most depressing figure being the continuous growth of population on a worldwide basis. Does anyone remember Paul Ehrlich and his zero-population-growth theories? (We sure could use a little bit of his awareness at this point in time, as our planet continues to be overwhelmed with unchecked growth and expansion.)

Not surprisingly, nearly every over environmental issue such as climate change, water quality, air pollution, loss of wild lands, loss of arable land, the expansion of deserts and the diminishing numbers of wildlife, all seem tied into the population growth. This trend seems destined to continue, even though awareness of environmental issue at the government level seems to be increasing.

our throwaway consumer habits are creating scenes like this one
our throwaway consumer habits are creating scenes like this one

The Earth Has Changed But Earth Day Remains the Same

Earth Day flag_PD
The Original Earth Day Flag as designed by John McConnell


Earth Day’s Popular Beginning

Earth Day was first proposed in a United Nations UNESCO meeting by John McConnell in the fall of 1969. By spring 1970, the American event had become a reality with Earth Day celebrations occurring across many US cities and campuses. The largest celebration occurred in NYC, where Mayor John Lindsey, closed several major thoroughfares and as a result over a million people flooded Central Park to partake in the festivities.

Earth Day was assigned to late April so as not to conflict with Easter, Passover or Spring Break
Earth Day was assigned to late April so as not to conflict with Easter, Passover or Spring Break

Why April 22? 

From the  U.N. meeting, the original concept was picked up by Gaylord Nelson of the U.S. Senate, who envisioned the holiday as an environmental teach-in on American campuses. The late April date was chosen, so as not to conflict with final exams, spring break or religious holidays. The first Earth Days were popular, well-attended public events that seemed like a carry-over from the sit-in demonstrations, which were so popular during the sixties. Although environmental awareness has increased dramatically, since the first Earth Day, environmental action has not kept pace. Much of the reason may be that environmental challenges are presenting themselves much faster, thus making immediate solutions difficult.



Polar bears investing the USS Honolulu near the North Pole, photo from Chief Yeoman Alphonso Braggs, US-Navy
Polar bears investing the USS Honolulu near the North Pole, photo from wikipedia……credit Chief Yeoman Alphonso Braggs, US-Navy


The Earth Is Changing

Even though most of the US is experiencing lower than normal temperatures for the 2013-2014 winter, it is generally believed by earth scientists that overall, the planet is slowly growing warmer. The reason for this paradox is complex, but it is generally believed among the scientific community that melting arctic ice has created a Pacific high, which is capable of redirecting weather systems through Canada before they drop into the United States. These unusual global events are prime material for an Earth Day teach-in, but co-ordinating community action to counter these problems is a much more difficult scenario.

Fire & Ice

Scoresby Sund, East Greenland, July, 1970
Scoresby Sund, East Greenland, July, 1970 from Wikipedia, J. Finkelstein

Fire and Ice  – a poem by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Still Popular

This little jingle penned back in the twenties by one of America’s favorite poets, still remains popular, even today. Perhaps with the ongoing debate about global warming and climate change,  this nine-letter stanza is seeing a rebirth of its own. Even so, the short poem has turned out to be one of the most popular of all of Robert’s Frost work. I guess this goes to show that bigger is not better.

Ice Age Now

Not to long ago, while researching an article on underwater volcanoes for the content mill, I came across a website called Ice Age Now. This is definitely one place, on the web that sing the accolades of “Global Warming”. Instead, they put forth the proposition that the planet is about to enter a Mini-Ice Age similar to what was experienced a 1,000 years ago. Furthermore, climate on earth is controlled much more by the sunspot activity and the resultant radiation (or lack thereof), rather than man’s activity on the planet. Evidence is cited from around the world to back up their claim. For example just this week they mentioned a three foot blizzard in southern Chile (its winter down there), a blizzard in the mountains of China (that’s definitely odd and unusual) and earthquakes at the Katla volcano in Iceland (they were very small, 3.8 was the biggest. Absent from this weeks news flashes was the heat wave in the Central U.S.

“It’s a cycle, it’s a cycle, it’s a cycle”

No, this is not a quote from somebody watching the Tour de France, but rather the slogan from some observers of  our global weather at Ice Age Now. Nonetheless, predictions about world weather patterns and not something to be put forth lightly. Case in point is the famous Krakatoa volcano, which put so much ash into the atmosphere that the weather patterns around the world were affected.  Could man be capable of the same thing today. I think so, but pinpointing cause and effect in such matters is not easily accomplished. Some days like today when temperatures are sky high, I ponder whether the earth is getting too warm. Maybe a chain of monster volcanoes going off will cool the planet down. But then who knows what next January will bring.

Happy Earth Day

Tadoussac, Canada
Tadoussac on the St. Lawrence, Quebec, Canada

Happy Earth Day everybody. Though I don’t know how happy a day it is, especially if one considers the damage that has been unleashed on the water in the Gulf of Mexico and just off the west coat of Japan. In fact, this annual event might have us staring at the fact that environment degradation could be on the increase. Maybe an “earth week” or “earth month” is needed.

Along a similar note over 100 right whales have been spotted in Cape Cod Bay near eastern Massachusetts. This is a very large sighting of a species of whale that is very much endangered. Since estimates of the world population actually run less than 1,000, the numbers of whales seen is very encouraging. Maybe they know it’s earth day.

Looking At The Earth

Earthrise; Credit:  Apollo 8, NASA
Earthrise; Credit: Apollo 8, NASA

Earth day has gone and passed, but no reason I can’t revisit the holiday and take a look at all the NASA imagery that has gone down and speculate now these pictures of earth from the great beyond might have had a picture on the unique holiday. Don’t forget earth day is 40 years old and some of these pictures go back almost as far.

Bright Sun and Crescent Earth from the Space Station; Credit: STS-129 Crew, NASA
Bright Sun and Crescent Earth from the Space Station; Credit: STS-129 Crew, NASA

Here’s a recent picture of one of the space station again courtesy of NASA. This picture kind of shows how are ability to make ourselves at home, while spinning around the earth has improved. For now there are at least a few individuals manning the beautiful yet lonely outpost in the sky.

Earth from Saturn; Credit:  Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA
Earth from Saturn; Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA

And now a view of earth from Saturn taken from the Cassini space probe which is probably well on its way to Neptune. Our space probes may be reaching out, but the humans seem trapped here near the planets.

And finally we have a crescent earth at midnight.

A Crescent Earth At Midnight; Credit: GOES Project, GSFC, NASA