An Earthy Flavor: The Spirit of Earth Day
By Ryan Reed
Fifty years ago, the Pennsylvania Legislature ratified the Environmental Rights Amendment, guaranteeing clean air, pure water, and preservation of natural and scenic values for its citizens. Notably, the language therein also includes the statement “for generations yet to come”, suggesting we owe future residents the inheritance of a healthy environment.
One year prior, America celebrated its first Earth Day (next Thursday marks the 51st). The era signaled the dawn of a new, national, and statewide commitment to the environment, bringing natural resource management to the forefront of public policy.
Environmentally, a lot has changed for the better in Pennsylvania over the last half-century. Pollution standards have brought about major improvements in air and water quality, and imperiled wildlife gained statutory protection. This period also began to right the wrongs of our exploitative past, restoring streams, remediating mines and toxic waste sites, and imposing stiff fines on polluters. The rising tide of environmental awareness and action showed the world that Pennsylvanians would no longer tolerate flammable streams, sickened children and wildlife from pesticides, and mass deaths due to air pollution (see Donora, PA, 1948). Indeed, environmental concerns would not continue to play second fiddle to other interests.
It bears mentioning once again that we are compelled to address these problems; it is the law. The Environmental Rights Amendment says so. But this is not the spirit of April 22. The law tells us what we must do. But our conscience tells us what we should do. Environmental progress was, of course, made possible by countless people who raised their collective voices and acted. Addressing our current environmental concerns, of which there are many, requires the same focus, and we are better when we work as a team.
This Earth Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to the planet that brings us so much beauty and life. Let us all participate in nurturing our air, water, soil, and wildlife by taking a few small steps. Together, we can uphold our environmental rights while guaranteeing them for generations yet to come.
Please see the list below for ten ideas on how to participate.
- Plant a native tree, shrub, or garden
- Participate in a native planting event or litter cleanup
- Lessen your impact by using less (water, electricity, fuel, other goods)
- Manage your waste by composting, reusing, and recycling
- Advocate for the environment by joining a grassroots organization
- Donate to environmental causes
- Buy a hunting or fishing license
- Educate yourself and others about the environment
- Urge your elected officials to act on behalf of environmentally friendly causes
- Share and introduce others to outdoor experiences
Happy Earth Day, Pennsylvania!
About the Author
Ryan Reed is an Environmental Education Specialist in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Forestry. He possesses degrees in Wildlife and Fisheries Science and Wildlife Technology, while currently pursuing a master’s degree in Environmental Pollution Control. He has also worked for the Pennsylvania Game Commission and taught high school sciences for 11 years. He is especially interested in biodiversity and ecology. A lifelong hunting and fishing enthusiast, Ryan resides in Harrisburg, PA. This article was originally written for the Bureau of Forestry’s Forest Fridays newsletter.
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