Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Every Week Should be Earth Week

By Stephen Vance, Editor

I’m not much for ‘Hallmark holidays’, or for special interest created events that tell us what we should be doing, and when we should be doing it.

From my perspective, if you love your gal, you don’t need Valentine’s Day to be the day to show it – one would hope that would be expressed throughout the year, making the commerce-driven ‘holiday’ irrelevant.

I feel the same about events like ‘Earth Hour’ or ‘Earth Day’ or ‘Earth Week’.

Don’t get me wrong, anyone who has read my work over the last half dozen years knows that environmental issues are near and dear to my heart: I just find it sad that any of us need to be told that we need to take care of this little blue ball floating in the darkness of space, inhabited by unimaginable numbers of species.

And so, as well intended as they may be, events like ‘Earth Week’ actually seem to highlight how little most of us do on a daily basis to reduce our impact on our environment, and how little time most of us spend reflecting on how best to take care of this planet in the years to come.

Imagine if rather than waiting until the designated day for ‘Earth Hour’ to focus on reducing our dependence on electricity, all of us did that every day. Imagine if we didn’t need to be told that it is officially the day to clean up a park, and instead, we all cleaned up parks while we’re using them. An afternoon at the beach at Memorial Park wouldn’t suffer much if everyone visiting the park would take 15 minutes to pick up some trash with each visit.

Critics of the environmental movement aren’t wrong to point out the silliness of such events. What is actually accomplished after all by a small percentage of the world’s population turning off their lights and screens for an hour? Not much, truth be told, though I wouldn’t suggest that people stop participating in such an event, as long as they understand that unless they apply the over-arching lesson that is intended to be taught to their daily lives, they’ve really done nothing more than save a buck or two on their hydro bill, and likely missed a favourite Saturday evening program.

Earth Hour, Earth Day, Earth Month. Great ideas to raise awareness, but not to carry the momentum forward.

Do you have one official day of the year designated for cleaning up your yard, or for washing your dishes? No, those things need to be done regularly and often. If we all waited for an officially designated clean-up day, our homes would be less than liveable.

What do I think of the previous four years that The Meaford Independent has sponsored the annual Earth Day clean-up at Memorial Park? I think it is a great vehicle for raising awareness, and engaging people with activities that make the park a cleaner, safer place to be, but I don’t fool myself into thinking that I’m changing the world, or that there is nothing more I can do throughout the year toward the cause.

When The Meaford Independent was launched in November of 2009, the goal was to operate an online newspaper that could inform the public without killing trees. The problem we had was the numerous requests for us to launch a print version of our popular online paper. Initially I resisted any discussion of going to print, but the demand was there, so I found every way possible to make our print paper as responsible as possible. First we were determined to use less paper. Why use 16 or 24 pages, when you can have as much information in 12 pages? We also ensured that our print paper is printed on FSC certified paper, and with our recent acceptance for membership in the Ontario Community Newspaper Association (OCNA), we pay a fee through our membership that is directed to paper recycling costs.

Is there more we can do to ensure that we are treading as lightly as possible? Yes there is, there always is, which is why a focus on one day or one week isn’t enough.

I encourage everyone to participate in some way with the coming Earth Week events in Meaford. However, I also encourage everyone who participates to establish a daily or weekly focus on lessening our environmental footprints, and cleaning up the mess we humans have made over the last several hundred years.

It will be the first large mass of eco-stewards who will have the greatest opportunity to inspire those around us to do their share of the housework in our shared home called Earth.

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