Local Earth Day efforts effective
Forty-four years ago today, with quite a bit of fanfare, environmental activists throughout the country held the first Earth Day celebrations. The brainchild of Sen. Gaylord Nelson — a Wisconsin Democrat and environmentalist inspired by the anti-war movement of the Vietnam era — the first national Earth Day drew an estimated 200,000 people to rallies around the country. Those events, which were largely nonpartisan, helped inspire the eventual creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts.
Since that auspicious start, the Earth Day movement has had its peaks and valleys. The 20-year anniversary in 1990 was an international affair that boosted environmental awareness around the world, and the 2000 event was one of the first to call attention to the issue of global warming. But most years, especially as the political environment has become increasingly partisan, the focus has been on local issues, ranging from road cleanups to tree planting, to how to support home-town agriculture. And perhaps those small efforts, multiplied many times over around the country, can do more for the environment than a huge rally on the National Mall could ever hope to accomplish.
A case in point is at Franklin Pierce University, where students and faculty will spend the week focused on local food and local farms. Keynote speaker Andy Pressman of Jaffrey, a farmer himself, said Monday that many farmers need a second job to make ends meet, which often forces them to work part-time. Yet their small farms account for more than half the food production in the United States. The farmers tend to follow sustainable growing practices, but their food may be more expensive. So it’s vital that people make a commitment to supporting local agriculture whenever possible.
“Here in the Monadnock region, we have a huge amount of great resources doing what they can to support agriculture,” Franklin Pierce’s sustainability coordinator, Jess Gerrior, told students on Monday. “You don’t have to be stuck in this system. We can make change within our local system.”
That’s good advice for all of us. Let’s honor Earth Day with a renewed commitment to support our local farmers.
Meanwhile, in many area towns, Earth Day — or often the week before or after — is the ideal time for volunteers to spruce up town roads, filling blue trash bags with cans, bottles and other debris that accumulated over the long, harsh winter. Of course, many walkers pick up trash all year long, especially in the neighborhoods where they live. But it’s wonderful to have an organized, coordinated effort that covers the entire community. So if you see folks out today or during the next week or so, be sure to tap — gently, please — a note of thanks on your horn.