We have come a long way since the first Earth Day 47 years ago. The Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act have helped bring back the Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and Osprey from the brink of extinction to where they have become almost a common sight here in the Meadowlands.
But even as climate change threatens the future of our planet, our biggest challenge ahead may be getting people to reconnect with the nature that exists right around them, every day, in their local communities and even in their own backyards.
Urban sprawl and the failure to preserve more open space have caused a generation to grow up without the pond down the street or the woodlands around the corner. Our children rarely play outside and no longer get their feet wet or their hands dirty in a pond or woodland that now no longer exist close to their home.
Children have lost their connection to the trees, bugs and birds those past generations grew up with. We will not be able to expect that there will be future conservationists or nature lovers that will care enough to protect the Bald Eagle, save the Monarch Butterfly or preserve wildlife habitat if they grow up afraid of a bumble bee or never touching a wildflower.
Adults too are not off the hook. Many have forgotten or conveniently chose to ignore their connection to the natural world and no longer grasp the concept that every acre of open space is not only important to the future of our wildlife but is also critical to their own health, quality of life and their children’s future.
Their nature disconnect has led them to believe that climate change is not real and that clean air and water is not related to them or needed in the hi-tech world of their suburban neighborhoods. They have failed to understand that everything we do at home is intimately connected to the health of our larger environment, and are allowing the environment to be ravaged with the empty promises of lower taxes and more jobs.
Conservation is not something that only exists in the rainforest or national parks but is just as imperative in our own home towns and communities. Unless we can find a way to reconnect- our children, the everyday guy down the street, and even ourselves – to the natural world that not only exists but thrives all around us we will never have the determination, the strength or the heart to preserve natural places, keep the water clean or have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the powers that seek to take us back to the dark ages when our environment was something to be abused and exploited.
We risk Earth Day becoming a forgotten event, a day discontinued due to lack of interest, replaced by big a big box store holiday they can use to conduct a “SALE”
So this Earth Day, take a walk at a local nature center or just sit in your backyard and listen to the incredible sounds of migration. Invite a friend on a nature walk to take in all the miracles of our Earth.
Bring along your neighbor, your children and grandchildren, bring a scout troop or seniors group and help them connect to the wonders of the Earth that exist just outside your door. The future of our environment, our wildlife and the future of Earth Day will depend on it.