The last place any of us planned to spend the 50th anniversary of Earth day was indoors and yet sadly here we are. It was supposed to be the Earth Day of all Earth Days, with celebrations, events and speeches like never before. For now that will have to wait for another day.
But we nonetheless should still be celebrating all the accomplishments, battles and victories that were born from that very first Earth Day. For they are still very much out there and part of our lives none more wonderful, dramatic or exemplary than our very own New Jersey Meadowlands
My family moved to Moonachie when I was 12-years-old. I came from a town where every kid played baseball and football to place where nature was a fundamental part of our childhood. Picking blackberries, hiking the railroad tracks and making rafts to float on the old clay pits occupied our summer vacations from sunup to sundown.
My childhood was intertwined and deeply connected to the natural world. The Red-winged Blackbirds, Red-tailed Hawks and Great Egrets were an everyday reality to us. We didn’t have to wait to switch on TV or wait to visit the zoo to view wildlife; it was just outside the front door. But along with that as a child of the Meadowlands I grew up to witness the worst crimes that could ever be done to the environment. But I was also fortunate enough to see the amazing things that could happen when good people from all walks of life who care join together to do the right thing and save a place they loved.
Our Meadowlands was once left for dead, considered best covered up and built upon, the butt of bad jokes and snickers especially when I told people where I lived, and by the way I still do proudly. And yet because of what came from that first Earth Day, like the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act, it gave us all a healthier and better place to live and a very special gift: Our Meadowlands. Just like the Bald Eagle and the Peregrine Falcon it has come back when many thought it was impossible and that is was not worth the effort.
Today our Meadowlands has become one of the most incredible restorations of a natural area that could be imagined anywhere. A place where endangered species seem common, a wilderness in the shadow of New York City and respite for the folks lucky enough to discover its magic.
As we sit at home this Earth Day we should not think of as an end or feel sorry for ourselves. Rather this Earth Day may be the best of one all. For now we realize how much we still need to do and how much we will depend on each other to do it.
From great tragedy comes great wisdom and like the Meadowlands we will come back stronger than ever to be sure we will all work to protect the Meadowlands and places like it for generations to come.
Before you know it we will all be together again walking the trails and fields of our Meadowlands. But for now we are together in spirit and resolve, always with the understanding that the Meadowlands still thrives and is continuing on as it has always meant to be.
Happy Earth Day! See you all soon.