Remembering Earth Day

April showers bring May flowers – for now. If humans keep living in an environmentally reckless fashion, there will be no more showers, flowers, or human life. Earth Day is a reminder of the dangers we face because of past mistakes.

The first Earth Day was celebrated 36 years ago. It is an event that was actually started by an environmentalist senator, Gaylord Nelson. It motivated an entire generation to act on environmental issues. At the time, it was one of the sexiest issues to be involved with. The environmental activists worked together to stop the use of many pollutants, such as pesticides and carbon dioxide emissions.

We take some of their work for granted. Many of us don’t think about drinking unclean water polluted by the use of pesticides or contributing to the problem by forgetting to recycle our PBR bottles on Saturday night. Earth Day gives us one day to consider what we could do to save water for future generations and stop the threat of global warming.

It is easy for us to take the environment for granted. The media has lost interest in this policy issue. Our current administration is more interested in helping businesses than saving the earth for future generations. However, certain dangers still exist. We have just chosen to ignore them. The threat of global warming has gone from a single conspiracy theory to a worldwide danger waiting to explode, literally. The hole in the ozone layer still exists and is recovering at a slower scale than originally believed. Our refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol shows our country’s lack of commitment to worldwide environmental issues. We don’t like to cooperate, even though the U.S. is the biggest contributor to the environmental problem. It looks like it will take a gigantic catastrophe to make our leaders pay attention and take action.

I am a reluctant member of Generation Y. We are the first ones who are blamed for inaction. On the other hand, we are the ones who are most informed. We have seen a perceived uprising and downfall of the environmentalism movement as portrayed by the media. I remember when the environment was the cool cause in the ’80s as information spread about CFC pollutants and recycling. My generation may not produce glitzy leaders or political activists on a high-profile scale. Unfortunately, we don’t have lasting or visible role models. The country’s agenda is dictated in a lot of ways by the media. The advent of television shows that we are more concerned with the birth of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise’s offspring than the political involvement of such celebrity environmentalists as Bette Midler or Paul McCartney. If the media focuses on environmentalist issues, it is often concerned with their flair for hypocrisy, such as the concern with Leonardo DiCaprio’s SUV.

If we are concerned with the environmental movement, we should take a lesson from the HIV and civil rights movements. Grassroots organizations involved in these movements are more concerned with informing John Q. Public about threats facing them than political clout or visibility. Our community takes environmentalism for granted, since the city passed groundbreaking environmental legislation and is inherently green, as our mass transit and recycling systems prove.

Sometimes, we don’t realize how lucky we are to live in Portland, especially in April. The advent of Earth Day uncovers both an optimistic and pessimistic viewpoint on environmentalism. Most places don’t celebrate the holiday with as much enthusiasm or excitement as Portland. As a whole, the day serves as a political, educational and social tool for all residents.

This Earth Day should serve as a reminder to everyone that the threats to the environment still exist. This isn’t just a holiday for tree-hugging hippies. It is a time to reflect on the damage inflicted by past generations. It is a reminder that the environmental dangers present in the ’80s still exist. Most importantly, this day serves as the opportune time to promote our Portland beliefs by promoting activism in places where environmentalism is ignored. Keep Portland green, but spread the seeds across the country on April 22.