May Day! It’s finally here, the month of May, the turning point, an end to frost and snow (hopefully) and time to get those tomatoes, peppers and other tender veggies in the ground. As we all know that “Mother’s Day” signals the coast is clear! But is it? Recent weather in the last few years has changed those old predictors, making us stop and re-evaluate. Super cold springs, scorching hot summers, global warming is real, the Earth is telling us to wake up and time to take notice!
I was recently at a local Earth Day Celebration. Everyone there was concerned about the environment, the future of bees, and the importance of native plants in our home gardens. That made me contemplate why we only celebrate the Earth for ONE day! I remember the very first Earth Day in 1970! I was a senior in high school, and very involved in ecology and zero population control. My school had a big outdoor assembly and invited guest speaker Eddie Albert (you may remember him from Green Acres), who was an ecology activist. I belonged to the Ecology Club, and we went to UC Berkeley to attend the burying of a car! What enthusiasm I had at age 17! How naïve! I rode my bicycle to work and back, mostly out of necessity because my car blew up, and being a poor student, I certainly wasn’t leaving a big carbon footprint. Then the years went by, and life happened. Although I moved to Oregon where life was slower and more in tune with the land, my only contribution to the earth was limiting my use of paper towels and plastics. We recycled, we composted, I got the Rodale Press book of “Organic Gardening”, I even made bread (for a while). Then I turned into a consumer, I had two kids and all that came with them, disposable diapers (the real ones lasted one whole week!). Baby wipes, plastic bottles, binkies, and sippy cups. My gardening time was replaced with two jobs – my career as a full time X-Ray Tech and then as a single mother. Earth Day was no longer on my radar; I was in survival mode!
Fast forward to the 2000s – the kids were bigger; I had a new spouse to share the daily chores with and I had garden time again. That’s when I started paying attention to the weather, and things, well, they were a-changing! We had hailstorms in July that dented cars, a month-long freeze that broke pipes, late snows that intermixed with 80-degree days in March, shorter springs and longer, hotter summers with less frequent mid-summer rainfalls. Now people were starting to take notice, as every year major weather events of floods, forest fires, tornados, and hurricanes were in the news.
But why has it taken 50 years? Why didn’t we listen to the predictions, and WHY does the Earth only have one day a year to be commemorated? If you are like me, you try to do your part – we don’t litter, we recycle, go to Goodwill and other thrift stores to buy gently used rather than new if possible, and fix things that are broken instead of throwing away. My old mantra is the “new” three R’s – repair, recycle, repurpose! I also joined the Master Gardeners upon my retirement and that opened my eyes to native plants. I went from a deer in the headlights, “duh, what’s a native”, to being an advocate who tells everyone who will listen to plant them. I watch Dr. Tallamy’s videos and read his books. I want to help the baby birds have lots of yummy caterpillars to eat and have habitat for the wildlife!
We need to celebrate the Earth EVERYDAY! You can do it too, by contributing to agencies that save the whales, clean up ocean plastics or stop the rainforests from being burned, and by planting native plants in your home garden. This planet is not just for us. Every living thing has a function and part in this amazingly complex design of ecosystems and food webs, and we as humans have successfully turned it upside down. We can’t wait another 50 years. It will be too late; we may be the last generations to know of how the Earth used to be.