Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Earth Day 2020

Sassy Afield

 

Legacy and Learning in 50 years of Earth Day

 

A note from Natalie Dawson, Executive Director at Audubon Alaska

Earth Day 1970, Fairbanks, Alaska: Secretary of Interior Wally Hickel canoes on the Chena River to talk about water pollution. He gives a speech about “shifting man’s thinking from military defense toward the environment” at the University of Alaska Fairbanks alongside the mayor of Fairbanks who quotes Tennyson, and Dr. Donald Aitken, who started the now-famous conservation group Friends of the Earth. It was an apolitical showing of art-politics-activism for a celebration of our home, our “mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” Sometimes it is difficult to remember what we are able to accomplish when we come together.

Bipartisanship reigned on the first Earth Day. We put aside our sharply divided society in the midst of the Vietnam War to address our impacts to water, air, farm fields, bald eagles, songbirds, marine mammals, and civil rights. We passed legislation to protect clear air, clean water, endangered species, labor unions, and healthy foods. We made steps forward. We slid backward. We learned from mistakes. Progress.

Earth Day 2020, Anchorage, Alaska: A global pandemic reminds us we are part of, not apart from, the world around us. It tells us that we can take collective action and make immediate impacts. Whales return to Southeast Alaska and cruise ships are not there to photograph them. The water is cleaner. Earth is quieterWe breathe cleaner air right now and so does the planet. A friend writes, “I wonder if the bears notice the lack of visitors at the Mendenhall Glacier.” We realize we have so much to learn because it turns out there is so much we do not understand.

And in this way, we find ourselves sitting in this united classroom that is Planet Earth. Like the first Earth Day, which was originally organized as a teach-in across college campuses in the U.S., we are once again students. We are learning about suffering, destruction, and the chance for renewal. We hear birdsongs for the first time. We learn about what we can and cannot afford to lose, and what we need to build. We have an incredible moment to create a new world built on shared experience because none of us have been here before, and we must move forward together.

 

Thistle Down Shower

 

Everyone can do something.

Seek peace and stay well,

 

Paz

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