Wednesday, April 22, 2015

45 Years and Counting


by Edward Hessler

April 22, 2015
3 Sunnyside Place

Earth Day #45.  This celebration as well as opportunity for reflection and action was founded by Gaylord Nelson, when he was a U. S. Senator from Wisconsin.
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Following the first Earth Day in 1970, Senator Nelson received a stream of letters from students across the United States.  About these letters, he wrote, "These young people are asking why their elders have taken such a beautiful world and are spoiling it for their children and grandchildren. They are asking ...'What are me and you gonna do?'"

Some of these letters became a wonderful book, What Are You and Me Gonna Do?: Children's Letters to Senator Gaylord Nelson About the Environment.  The letters, as Senator Nelson noted, are charming, poignant, and most of all direct.  Here is an example from an exasperated student. It was written in cursive!

Dear Sir:

     I'm ten years old and very worried about our growing environment. I wish I could feel free to breathe the air I do breath, swim in the eater I do swim in, look at the ugely diseased, or burnt down trees that were once beautiful. I sometimes wonder if you really do anything about it?  Why, and you ask what do you mean why?  Well, I mean, why just stand (or sit) there reading my letter!! DO SOMETHING!!! [underlined 3 times]

Call the President!
Do anything, but STOP POLLUTION!!!! [underlined 4 times]

A concerned fourth grader,
[see book for name]

p. s.
the birds, giraffes, and other high animals can't live with air pollution. I am a very, very, very healthy little girl. What am I to do?

On this Earth Day, I am still thinking about a New York Times article on carbon dioxide emissions for 2014, one that caught me by complete surprise.  In the words of John Schwarz, "they stalled."  And in a time of an expanding global economy!  An expert on climate change, Dr. Minda Berbeco, National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has a great post on some meanings about this N of one.

What do you make of these data?

There is still more than enough for us to do. Some are small and personal (e.g., lifestyle changes). Others are large, aimed at broad sociocultural change (e.g., pressing leaders to promote and pass legislation that reduces impacts from anthropogenic climate change).

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