Earth Day 2023

"Earth Day" banner over the Earth which is in the shape of a heart.
Image by Laxman Deep from Pixabay.

Happy Earth Day! This is a day of recognition and a day to celebrate our beautiful home and habitat.

But as I always say, Earth Day should be every day.

This year, 2023, feels heavier, though. There’s so much going on and so much division that climate change and environmental issues often feel like back-burner issues.

It’s hard to think about buying plastic-free items and aiming for zero-waste when the price of groceries is so high.

While the average price of groceries rose 11.4% in the last year, it is expected to rise another 8.6% this year. But for some items, staples such as bread, eggs, milk, butter, and flour – the inflation rates are even higher. “The average price of white bread was about 22 percent higher in January than it was two years ago, and flour is up almost 21 percent. Butter cost 31 percent more.”1 Milk went up about 15% between 2021 and 2022.2 “The average price for all types of eggs ballooned 60% in 2022” because of an outbreak of bird flu.3

But some of the other costs have been simply to increase the wealth of corporations, CEOs, and shareholders. They are seeing record profits and receiving record dividends and bonuses. All at our expense. According to Oxfam, a global organization that fights inequality to end poverty and injustice, 62 new billionaires were created during the pandemic. They have exacerbated problems like labor shortages and supply chain disruptions to justify inflation. But the majority of food companies still managed to see record profits.4

Maroon-colored bag of Lundberg Family Farms organic basmati rice on a shelf.
Photo by me, April 8, 2023.

In the last 5 years, costs have increased overall by about twenty percent. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics Consumer Price Index inflation calculator indicates that $100.00 in February 2018 has the same buying power of just over $120.00 in February 2023.5 Inflation has increased an average of 20% over the last 5 years. Most of us have not seen an increase in wages or benefits.

It’s difficult to see the value in cleaning up trash in one community when you see environmental racism and injustice in another.

My family participated in a Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful trash clean-up event in April 2023. It felt really good to go out and do something good. But all around our own city and in countries across the globe, there are people living amongst massive amounts of trash, toxic waste sites, and pollution. Why aren’t we doing more to help?

I remind myself that many of us are trying. Unfortunately, the people with the most wealth are often the same people exploiting those that have the least. And climate change affects some of the poorest communities in the world even though they have the smallest carbon footprint.

We just have to keep getting out there and doing what we can. Keep trying, learning, and especially voting!

It’s easy to shift your focus away from climate change when you are worried about the safety of your child at school.

I really don’t like to write about political issues on my website (other than things related to the environment and climate change, but those really shouldn’t be political issues, anyway). But this is a real fear for many parents, myself included. Firearms are the leading cause of death for children in the U.S.

The March 2023 Nashville school shooting, tragic and sad, should never have happened. The same week as that shooting, my son’s school in Chattanooga was put on a “secure hold” because of an intruder. The school seemed to have handled it swiftly and correctly, but they didn’t notify the parents until after the whole incident was over. The intruder was unarmed, but I nevertheless cried out of fear. I remain fearful every day I bring him to school. This daily anxiety is taking its toll.

How am I supposed to worry about climate change right now, when I’m worried about my child surviving the day?

A pair of gloved hands holding a globe with a sprouted plant on top, black background.
Photo by Fateme Alaie on Unsplash.

The answer is that I have to at least try.

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is now.” -Proverb

We all have to try.

Together.

We can do better.

“I don’t think we want to just scrape by as a species, surviving with a degraded natural world, suffering ecosystem and societal collapse, and mass human suffering on a scale that dwarfs anything we’ve experienced as a species. I think we all want to see what we’re capable of, and make this world of ours the best it can be.” -Rob Stewart6

Graphic of colorful stick people holding hands across the arc of the top of Earth.
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay.

We must keep learning.

“When you know better, you do better.” -Maya Angelou

We have to do the right things, even when our leaders don’t.

“Choose what is right, not what is easy.” -Yoda

We have to give what we can, whether that’s time, energy, or money.

“The surest path to contentment is generosity. Giving forces us to recognize all we possess and all we have to offer. It allows us to find fulfillment and purpose in helping others.” -Joshua Becker, becomingminimalist.com

We must teach our children to do better than we have.

“I’m still convinced it’s a good old world, really, but I do think we have screwed it up. It’s highly obvious with the ocean filling with plastic; it didn’t get there by itself. Thinking that climate change is a hoax is another screw-up, one that I hope we can still fix for our children and our children’s children.” -Paul McCartney

We need to value the people and the environment around us. Let’s help each other.

“Fighting for something other than your own wealth, working for someone else’s happiness, saving species, pulling people out of poverty, conserving instead of wasting – this is what really matters.” -Rob Stewart8

Photo of a watercolor painting of the Earth with a purple background.
Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash.

I leave you with a heavy heart this Earth Day. But I think the best thing we can do to celebrate today is to get outdoors and be in nature. Spend time taking in the elements and the beauty of nature. Hug a tree. Hug the person next to you. Spread kindness and love.

“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” -Albert Einstein

Thanks for reading, please share and subscribe.

Footnotes:

Earth Day 2022

Silhouettes of children in rainbow colors with a rainbow and the word "Hope"
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Hope. Hope is what I want to leave my child someday. Hope for humanity and hope that we will preserve our own habitat.

Even though it’s Earth Day, I’m struggling with hope lately. I’ve been reading too many books and watching too many documentaries about the state of our planet. I don’t just mean plastic pollution or climate change, either. I mean the sum total of all of the things we are doing to destroy our own habitat. We don’t need to save the planet, we need to save the living creatures on the planet – including the humans!

“The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.” -David Attenborough

Water

My latest research and upcoming article is Part 2 of What’s In Your Water? about all of the contaminants in our water, and the consequences on our health. That alone has left me feeling sad, as the water we use – already limited in many parts of our country and across the globe – is polluted. Yet we waste water, allow corporations to dump toxins into it, and have a general sense of apathy toward water.

Water is everything. We cannot survive without it.

Ocean

I recently watched the new documentary, Fin, about shark finning and fishing. We are killing 1 million sharks per year for fins, food, and fun. At that rate, it will not take long to completely delete sharks from the ocean. Here’s the trailer:

Without sharks, the ocean will fall out of balance. They are apex predators and play an important role in maintaining the species below them in the food chain. They serve as an indicator of ocean health. Add to that the decimation of the coral reefs, and the ocean will completely change. The ocean covers 70% of the Earth’s surface, produces over 50% of the world’s oxygen, and absorbs a lot of carbon dioxide. The ocean regulates climate and weather patterns.

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” – Dr. Sylvia Earle

Coral reef with colorful fish.
Image by joakant from Pixabay

Everything Else

We cannot continue the mass destruction of rainforests, which basically serve as the Earth’s lungs. We are depleting all of the fossil fuels that took millions of years to form. We have more waste than our globe has room to store. And we are causing the extinction of many species every single day.

“Here we are, the most clever species ever to have lived. So how is it we can destroy the only planet we have?” – Jane Goodall

We are poisoning our water, our food, our animals, our children! Chemicals, pollutants, and toxins enter our lives daily and we should not accept this as normal. We all need to be active in conservation on all fronts, not just today, and not just for a short time. This is something we must do going forward, every day. As the saying goes, there is no Planet B.

Fragile Earth in a box, There is no Planet B
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Keep Trying

Conservation is the preservation of life on earth, and that, above all else, is worth fighting for.” -Rob Stewart

I continue to try and share information with others, to inform, educate, and enlighten. Today, to celebrate Earth Day, I am participating in the clean-up of a local creek in an underserved neighborhood. I want it to make a difference. I would like it to inspire others to not give up. Most of all, I want it to show my child that we all have to hang on to hope – through action, not wishing. But first I’ve got to keep my own hope alive.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day graphic (white text and aqua background)
Image by Satheesh Sankaran from Pixabay

What a Crazy Time with Coronavirus (and more cute kittens), Part 2

Last updated on March 28, 2024.

Kitten on pink blanketAll kitten images in this article are from the Kitten Academy.1

In mid-March, I wrote an article about the craziness that was coming down surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. At the time, everything was starting to close down in the United States, but I was still going to work until right after I published that article, and I went grocery shopping the day before. Many things had announced closure for 2 weeks.

But this pandemic continually changes things, sometimes on a weekly if not daily basis. The day after that post I began working from home. I haven’t returned to the campus and cannot go because it is closed. Officially, that has been extended into summer. I’m truly grateful to be employed and have a job allowing me to work from home. The latest number of unemployment claims in the United States is 36 million, the highest since the Great Depression!

Public schools were closed for 2 weeks, then 4, and now children are finishing the school year at home. High school seniors will not have the usual end-of-year experiences. My son will not be in his first-grade teacher’s classroom again. We were instructed to do guided homeschooling, which has been challenging.

The stay-at-home orders remain in effect in some places and not others. In Tennessee, for example, they’ve been lifted and we are wondering if we will now see a spike in illnesses. In the United States, they are discovering between 20,000 and 30,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day and the death rate is sure to go up. How long will this go on?

We don’t know.

Kitten on blue and white carpet

Uncertainty

On top of that, the Southeast experienced tornados on Easter Sunday. An EF3 hit Chattanooga and dozens lost their homes and some lost their lives. Thousands went without power for a week or more and lost some of the contents of their refrigerators and freezers. This is concerning during a time of partial food shortages, especially in the meat industry.

Now there are wildfires in Florida, forcing people to evacuate their homes. Hurricane season begins in just a couple weeks and they are predicting stronger storms this year. Natural disasters add to the stress people are experiencing.

Everything seems uncertain and distressing.

Kitten on leopard print

But positivity abounds

The Kitten Academy, featured in Part 1, celebrated a new litter of kittens. I’ve featured photos of their kittens again because it’s something cute, positive, and happy.

Our local school district provided Chromebook computers to students who needed them. Several internet companies provide internet for free to low-income families. The school district has even been providing meals for students who need them. People who received their stimulus checks in the last month are donating portions (or all) to those who need it more. People have set up funds to help the tornado victims in several states.

Kitten on blue and white carpet

A chance to slow down

We’ve been allowed to slow down. There’s no daily rat race to get from one place to another. No lessons to rush to, no errands to run, no places to be. If we are healthy and safe, we are blessed. We have this rare opportunity to reassess our values and behaviors to decide what really matters to us.

“This is a rare chance to take stock. Through all of the anxiety, we still have the option to start practicing those values we usually ignore and, with all of the closures and cancellations, we have been given the blankest slate we can ever expect to receive.”  -Seth Riley2

Many people are trying to use this time to do new things or be creative, but it’s ok if you aren’t. Stay calm. It is a good time to think and reevaluate your life, however. Joshua Becker wrote an article about things you can do with your family during this time (linked below). These include activities such as going outside, teaching your children a new game, or simply reading.

“May the silver lining of today’s crisis be that we get the opportunity to think about how we really want to live, serve, connect, create and BE in our new normal.” -Courtney Carver

We have had more time to spend outdoors. We have more time together. We planted a garden. We ate dinner on the patio. We have time for evening walks. We literally flew a kite!

My son flying a kite in the backyard.
My son flying a kite in the backyard. Photo by Marie Cullis.

Maybe it’s a good time to let go

Some are using this time to declutter or even go minimalist and let go of mental and physical clutter. At the very least, maybe it is a good time to reassess and simplify your life. I’ve included some articles on minimalism below under Additional Resources.

“It’s a good exercise in reminding us that we just don’t need a lot of the stuff that we have. When times are bad, having each other, having your health (is most important). We can do with a lot less and I think that’s an important lesson I want my kids to understand… Be grateful for what you have and be ready to share it when the time comes.” -Michelle Obama3

What about remaining eco-friendly?

If you’re trying to remain eco-friendly during this quarantine and struggling, know that you are not alone. It’s harder to maintain an eco-friendly or zero-waste lifestyle right now. I’ve struggled with unwanted plastics in my grocery deliveries and curbside pickups. Bulk bins foods are no longer available and it’s harder to get my usual products in glass. As one of my favorite zero wasters, Kathryn Kellogg wrote in her book (101 Ways To Go Zero Waste), regarding having plastic water bottles in her emergency kit: it’s ok if every part of your life is not zero waste. “Putting your health and safety in jeopardy in the name of wanting to reduce trash is silly.” This is especially true right now.

Kitten on pink blanket

Be gentle to yourself, and allow yourself time to evaluate, meditate, and reassess everything. Decide what is most important to you. Let this time of fear and stress also be a time of mental clarity. Love those close to you and call the people you can’t see right now.

Thanks for reading, and stay safe.

 

Additional Resources:

Article, “25 Things to Do with Your Family While Stuck at Home,” by Joshua Becker, becomingminimalist.com, accessed May 16, 2020.

The Minimalists released a good article on reevaluating our belongings.

An article from Courtney Carver about how to start during the quarantine.

Here’s a video with advice from minimalist Joshua Becker.

Footnotes:

Happy 50th Earth Day!

Last updated on March 23, 2024.

Pair of hands with the world painted across them.
Image by stokpic from Pixabay.

Happy Earth Day! Today marks the 50th year of Earth Day. I’ve got several articles I’m working on right now, but I couldn’t let this day pass without writing a quick post to honor this day!

I recently read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, who is often credited with launching the modern environmental movement. Carson “stirred an awakening of public environmental consciousness,” wrote her biographer, Linda Lear. By 1970, Earth Day was established. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established in 1970. Additional important legislation followed, such as the Clean Air Act in 1963, the National Environmental Policy Act in 1970, the Clean Water Act in 1972, and the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

50 Years!

Sadly, this year there will be no great gathering to observe this day nor its anniversary because of COVID-19.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t honor this day anyway! From Earth Day’s official website: “While Earth Day may be going digital, our goal remains the same: to mobilize the world to take the most meaningful actions to make a difference.”1 They’re asking everyone to participate in 24 hours of global digital mobilization.

“While the coronavirus may force us to keep our distance, it will not force us to keep our voices down. The only thing that will change the world is a bold and unified demand for a new way forward.” -earthday.org2

Image of Earth, Africa front facing
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay.

Earth Day Should Be Every Day

Let’s remember that Earth Day is just one day of celebration and action. Every day should be Earth Day! We should be thinking about the changes we can make – from the small daily changes to the large conservation efforts we need to put forth. I know all of the environmental problems can seem overwhelming and people don’t always know where or how to start. I want to tell you that just by thinking about these subjects, you are already doing something. Congrats!

Small globe in a person's hand.
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels.

The world is in our hands. Remember, it’s the Earth we are honoring today, but it’s humankind that we are trying to save. The Earth will go on without us someday.

There are so many things you can do. Stay informed, and educate yourself on environmental problems. Subscribe to this website, and many others like it! You can start with these How To Quick Start Guides and my Resources page, in which you’ll find many resources, individuals, and organizations that have lots of information.  Just start. Don’t worry about being perfect. And if you need help, feel free to leave me a comment below!

I also made Earth Cookies and shared my method here.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Earth Day!

 

Footnotes: