Friday, April 21, 2017

Celebrating Earth Day today and everyday by Lorraine Glowczak

Karen Lothrop (r) with Ron and Martha Strout
What began as a grassroots movement in 1970 by then U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, has now become a global celebration to focus on the health of the environment.
It all began with a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California that Nelson took note of and then decided to raise awareness about environmental issues. With the assistance of Rep. Pete McCloskey of California, as well as a Denis Hayes from Harvard, events were organized across the nation with many college students participating in various ways. The date, April 22, was chosen at the time because it fell between spring break and final exams.

According to the Earth Day Network, “Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean AirClean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.”

In 1990, Earth Day became a global passion with approximately 140 countries participating in environmental awareness activities. Despite recent years of cynicism, Earth Day celebrations remain in the spotlight with approximately 180 countries participating as it approaches its 50-year anniversary in 2020.

For some, celebrating Earth Day has become an everyday habit. This includes a few individuals within the Windham and Raymond communities.

Gordon Street holds the sign he will use in Saturday's March for Science
For the past 15 years, Karen Lothrop from Windham and her friends Martha and Ron Strout, as well as Inger Riley (when she is visiting from Wisconsin) go on long morning walks. And as they do, they pick up trash. Their route begins on Sandbar Road, making their way along 302 and then onto Route 35. “We have discovered that the most trash can be found behind Staples on 302,” Lothrop stated. “For some reason, people dump a lot of trash in that area.” 

Although Lothrop spends winters in Florida, where she picks up trash on her daily walks there, she always returns to her home in Windham. While here at home, she dedicates her morning walks to trash pickups from June until October. 

Gordon Street of Raymond has turned his passion, the art of scientific thinking, into an Earth Day activity. Street will be participating in the “March for Science” event that will occur this Saturday in Portland. 

However, Street’s participating in Saturday’s March is just the beginning. He has been and will continue to advocate for and educate the public on the need to think scientifically, a critical skill that has not been adequately taught to our children. 

“All humans have what is called a ‘confirmation bias’,” Street explained. “This simply means that we look for data that supports what we believe and suspect to be true, instead of data that opposes what we believe, which is the way scientist approach a hypothesis. Scientific thinking prevents us from ‘shooting from the hip’ and making decisions and coming to conclusions in error. You don’t have to be a scientist to have critical scientific thinking skills.”

Street believes the lack of scientific thinking has a great impact on misunderstandings surrounding the environment.
For those who also are interested in being every day stewards of the earth, one does not need to be an advocate or walk every morning to pick up trash. There are a variety of small steps that can fit your lifestyle. Some positive action can be as simple as turning off the lights in a room when no one is there or planting a tree (make sure it is not invasive to Maine). 

If hiking, biking, snowmobiling or riding your ATV is your passion, one can also become a member or a volunteer for non-profit environmental organizations where trails are readily available. Organizations such as the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust (Black Brook Preserve and Pringle Wildlife Preserve in Windham) or the Loon Echo Land Trust (Raymond Community Forest in Raymond) are always willing to accept volunteers. 

No matter what it is you do to celebrate Earth Day, today and/or every day, any step you take is an important one. As Lothrop stated, “There is no Planet B, so it might be wise to take care of the one we have.”

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