EARTH DAY 2020 and the Rule of Six P’s
When I woke up this morning it was 33 degrees out, interesting because the average winter temperatures here in sleepy Central Pennsylvania were higher in January (37 degrees) and February (40.7 degrees).
When the kids were young and wouldn’t do their homework, my husband would recite the rule of six Ps: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-poor Performance. By the time they were out of high school they were pretty sick of hearing about the six P’s, but that didn’t stop him from repeating it. Today, we’re living in the Upside Down where winter looks like spring and spring looks like winter, and since we haven’t given a thought to the Six P’s for decades we’ve created a whole new normal.
Actually, we haven’t been ignoring things. At the first Earth Day on April 22,1970, about 10% of the country showed up on behalf of the planet. Under the leadership of Senator Gaylord Nelson, environmentalist, conservationist, consumer advocate, small business proponent and peace lover, along with about 20 million of his best friends, Earth Day raised the nation’s awareness of the critical environmental issues of the day.
The result? Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency on December 2, 1970. Earth Day also led to the expansion of some of our most important national legislation like the Clean Air Act — originally passed in 1963 and amended in 1970 — and the Clean Water Act — originally enacted in 1948 as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, and reorganized and expanded in 1972 to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.
Changing public opinion is difficult. Sometimes it takes generations of slow movement in a singular direction to experience even minor change. Just look at the civil rights movement, or the women’s movement. Yet for the last 50 years we have presided over one of the greatest social movements in history, the environmental movement, and we’ve made great strides in the process.
So how are we really doing? Rivers aren’t catching on fire (bonus!); the use of green infrastructure is on the rise, resulting in reduced stormwater runoff (we’ll take it), our air quality has improved significantly over the last several decades (asthma is still on the rise so we have work to do here, people), and perhaps we are starting to understand the economic benefits of open space (lots of work to do in land use planning),
The contiguous U.S. has warmed 2.4 degrees since the first Earth Day. As of the last month, we have even seen a sharp reduction in carbon emissions — unfortunately, Covid related since no one is driving anywhere, factories aren’t pumping out waste, and most people are hunkering down at home — but at the least it’s a demonstration of what can be done with a concerted effort. So while I’m delighted we made it this far, with a few noteworthy improvements, our success could be exponential.
Take renewables. There’s nothing that powers our planet like the sun and the good news is we don’t have to dig, drill, or destroy anything to get access to that kind of fire power.
What about hydroelectric? Is there a more stunning example of harnessing the power of water to create electricity AND taking home the crown in the natural beauty competition than Niagra Falls?
How about wind? Yesterday we had 40 mph winds here and 60 mph the week before. A small turbine in our backyard could have turned that wind into power. We actually had a turbine for awhile. My husband built it from scratch, but the paddles were made of wood and after rebuilding and replacing them a couple times, he finally gave up. Today we could get panels made out of fiber glass or carbon fiber which would have resulted in a workable, long-lasting piece of equipment.
Geothermal is another good one, tapping the thermal heat far below your house’s foundation to give you heat. There are others and probably some which have not been developed yet.
It’s time for society to focus on the six P’s, not just my husband’s, but two more sets of three. First, public private partnerships where a government entity collaborates with a private party or company to create some kind of public works project. Through public/private partnerships, projects that may not have come to fruition because of time, lack of manpower, or cost, are getting a leg up.
Then there’s the triple bottom line: profit, people and planet. These three P’s focus on financial, social and environmental performance because good environmental policy = good economic policy. To have a safe and prosperous future for ourselves and our children, we need to focus on each leg of this triangle. So vote with your feet and pick the guy or gal that’s gonna keep the three P’s in mind.
Maybe you were planning to take part on an Earth Day celebration but were shut down by this dang pandemic. Not sure how to contribute? Just take a look around. Anything you can do to improve your little part of the world will help. Want to plant a rain garden in your backyard? Rain gardens look cool, they help water hang around for a while so it can seep slowly back to groundwater rather than rush off down the storm drain, they filter out toxins and pollutants from entering the streams and rivers so they improve water quality, and it’s another connection to mother earth. If that’s too much, how about putting a rain barrel under your downspout. You can use the water for your garden all summer long.
Is it windy where you live? Why not take a crack at building a wind turbine in your backyard. Too much work? Then how about a compost bin? Want to help pollinators and assure a continuing food supply? Why not plant a pollinator garden, and if you’re really adventurous, you could become a beekeeper.
Want to stay healthy, safe and virus free? Protect nature. Keep a respectful distance, allow open space to stay open, give the critters the freedom to roam just like you want to roam, and create a building practice that doesn’t lead to deforestation and doesn’t impinge on critical habitats because it’s not just the spotted owl, but the whole dang ecosystem that’s crashing and us along with it if we don’t take some action now. Need more convincing? About 25% of our medicine comes from rainforest plants yet less than 5% of rainforest plants have actually been studied. What if the cure for cancer was somewhere in that part of the rainforest that just got bulldozed for raising cattle?
Earth Day is not just about bugs and bunnies, but people, too. We’re part of the earth, just like the soil, the sand, and the air we breathe, and we need to replenish ourselves the same way. So before you dismiss Earth Day as just some environmentalist fluff, remember, we’re all stuck here together on this tiny little globe so if Mom says go take out the trash, or clean up your room, or don’t throw your smelly fast-food wrappers or plastic bottles on the street for someone else to pick up, maybe it’s time to listen to her.
Happy Earth Day. Stay safe and healthy. We’re all in this together.
pam lazos 4.22.20