Earth friendly

Earth Day is just a reminder of actions that we should take every day to protect our environment.

We only have one Earth and we would be smart to take better care of it.Somewhere along the line, Earth Day, which will be celebrated on Tuesday, has gained a reputation as an event only commemorated by children and granola-eating environmentalists. In recent years, however, it has become increasingly apparent that all of us who inhabit the Earth need to do a better job of preserving the natural beauty and resources it provides us.

Americans are especially guilty of taking our natural environment for granted. Blessed with a country that had vast open spaces and plentiful natural resources, our ancestors often saw little need to be concerned about the environment. If one spot became spoiled, they could move on. If a natural resource was depleted in one area, it could be found somewhere else.

Obviously, we now must be far more concerned with preserving the quality of our air and water and protecting other natural resources. What once seemed like an inexhaustible supply of resources to support our lives and lifestyles now seems less secure.

The attitude of our forefathers is understandable, but that doesn’t mean today’s Americans can continue to ignore the effect of a rising population on our natural environment. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that whatever an individual is capable of doing really won’t make much difference in the big scheme of things, but that isn’t true. Millions of people taking small steps toward protecting the environment can make a huge difference.

Simple recycling, for instance, can help keep the Earth from becoming a huge trash dump. Don’t litter. Volunteers scouring 33,000 miles of the world’s beaches last September found 6 million tons of debris, including nearly 2.3 million pieces of cigarette trash and more than half a million plastic bags.

Think about how much water you and your family use. Even in other parts of Kansas, residents are being forced to take shorter showers, stagger outdoor watering and turn the tap off while they’re brushing their teeth. Think about whether you really need to drive as much as you do, and at least try to combine errands on a single trip. Think about how much trash you set at the curb each week. Is there a way to use and dispose of less?

Humans being as they are, many of us won’t change our ways until we are forced to do so, but evidence is that that day may be coming. High-priced fuel may return air travel to a service for the elite. New federal clean air standards may force us to look at new ways to generate the power. Declining water resources may trigger more regional conflicts – legal, if not physical – over water supplies.

On Earth Day 2008, the global environment is sending us many negative messages. As we learn how to better interpret those messages, future actions should become more clear. But in the meantime, even small steps taken by many people will help. Protecting the environment isn’t just a job for children and naturalists; it’s a job for everyone.