Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. – George Bernard Shaw
April 22 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day. The celebration began as a reaction to the impacts industrialization upon the planet. Mankind has altered Mother Earth in so many ways, and now our alterations are threatening the very survival of our species. It could be disheartening to think back on all the lofty goals and pure ideals associated with the environmental movement. But without those early changes in human behavior, the world would be suffering even greater degradation. There are so many changes still needed however. I fear humanity may never be ready for the critical hard choices.
We should not give in to pessimism about the future of the human race. Think about that phrase – the future of the human race. Science fiction stories can be harbingers of things to come. Those images of our fossilized civilization emerging from drifting dunes haunted my dreams as a young man. I was drawn to the imagery of dystopia and empty wastelands. How had that fictional society not heeded the warnings signs of their annihilation? At the same time I was more attracted to the glorious beauty of the image of Earthrise taken by Apollo 8, December 24, 1968.
The absolute beauty of our homeworld, counterbalanced by the black void with the foreground dominated by the “magnificent desolation” (to quote Buzz Aldrin). That image has been impressed into the living tissue of my mind for decades. Couple that to the hopeful optimism about the future instilled in me by Star Trek. But the struggle between economy and ecology. The words ecology and economy have their root in the Greek oikos -household, home, place to live. That frames our situation in a nutshell.
To quote the raven “Nevermore”. Humanity cannot go backwards. Humanity must change. Nevermore can our species treat our home as a garbage can. Nevermore can we allow the death of millions to profit a handful of filthy rich. We the people of planet Earth can determine the progress of humanity through our choices. We must change our mind about making frivolous choices that only provide a short-term pleasure burst. All our choices have an impact somewhere. To quote Jane Goodall, “There is a powerful force unleashed when young people resolve to make a change.” As a reminder, Earth Day began as a youth movement.
I will always try my best to choose the positive path over the negative. We can change our course. For years I taught children about the environment, and Earth Day was always a day for me to celebrate the future. Celebrate our wonderful world. Join together around the world to make the future brighter. There was a very popular poster when I was younger which said, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Make today better than yesterday. Peace and Love.