Wisconsin and Earth Day go back a long way together. Truth be told, without Wisconsin, Earth Day might not even exist. Horrified by a disastrous oil spill off the coast of California in 1969 and the overall sad state of the environment, our own Sen. Gaylord Nelson conceived and set in motion the gears that made Earth Day 1970 a phenomenon to be reckoned with. Twenty million Americans marched proudly in their streets and parks that first year to protest the piecemeal destruction of the beautiful, life nurturing planet we had so recently seen from space for the very first time. We could finally see how finite Earth was floating in the emptiness of space. We also saw how small and fragile it was. Suddenly, we knew without a doubt how much our lives depended on it. We also understood we needed to protect this little life boat of ours drifting in the dark vacuum between the stars.
Thank that first Earth Day for the EPA, the Clean Air Act, Water Quality Act and Endangered Species Act. It was a pretty heady time for the “tree huggers” of the early ’70s. But times change, and in today’s angry and divided political climate these policies, even the EPA itself, are under threat in the name of industrial profits and party politics.
Good people of every political stripe post pictures of beautiful sunrises, elegant photos of meandering rivers and the glorious palette of autumn forest colors. And yet today, after 53 years of Earth Days our environment is in even greater danger. Good old planet Earth is in desperate need of unity in our loving care of it.
Earth Day 2023 must be about building that united will to protect our planetary environment and make that our number one priority. As one of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s students put it in her article “From the Pond to the Streets” (March/April Sierrra Club magazine): “We are on the precipice. When everything hangs in the balance it matters where I stand. How wonderful to live in a time when everything that I do matters.”
What you and I do matters. From transitioning to renewable energy to driving an electric car – it matters. From eating more vegetables, grains and fruits – it matters. Buying locally made products matters, growing our own food in our own garden – it matters, and so does keeping the plastic out of our shopping carts, and so much more. Again, what we do matters.
But in particular what matters is our vote and our eagerness to let our politicians know that we expect sane, effective local, state and federal action on climate change and environmental protection now. It is just as vital that we act together in our glorious diversity to support and nurture our home planet.
This Saturday morning (April 22) we in Wausau will celebrate Earth Day 2023 together, hand in hand, heart to heart with a tree planting ceremony at Tenth Street Park at 10 a.m. With the cooperation and assistance of our Parks Department we will plant an orchard of 16 fruit trees and follow it with a Talking Circle where we can voice our environmental concerns and share our solutions.
This celebration unites the wonderful diversity that really defines our city in our shared love and care for our planet and for one another. Organized by our local Citizen’s Climate Lobby Chapter and NAOMI we encourage you to join us.
Dan Barth of Mosinee
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