Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: volunteer

The illustrated title says "Happy Earth Day Celebrating 50 Years."

Earth Day, fifty years on

Earth Day, fifty years on, looks a lot different from the early Earth Days I remember. 

Followers of this blog may recall my claim to be “older than dirt” (as a gardener who composts, I can confidently make that claim). I also am older than Earth Day.

As with many things in the 1970s, however, I came to Earth Day a bit late. Many schools in the US let out classes or didn’t count absences, if students left campus to participate in peaceful demonstrations or “teach-ins” on April 22, 1970 (Seriously! What an awesome civics lesson!). But not my high school in conservative southwest Missouri! 

(Video courtesy of YouTube)

No, we may have glimpsed a story about it on the news. And it may have begun in a bipartisan spirit of cooperation. But it would take a few more years, and my evolution into a “somewhat-hippie” college art major, before I actively participated in any observances of Earth Day.

An expanding movement

The first Earth Day was a mixed success, but the movement persisted, because the problems didn’t go away. Decades of laissez-faire non-regulation of toxins in the environment had turned most of the “developed” world into a toxic mess

I cringe when I hear about recent changes that make the Environmental Protection Agency less able to hold polluters accountable, or when supposedly-reasonable political leaders discount climate change.

In this 1952 black-and-white photo, a tugboat squirts water on a fire that is burning atop the extremely polluted Cuyahoga River near Cleveland, OH.
The Cuyahoga River caught fire several times near Cleveland, OH, during the mid-20th Century. It got to be kind of a routine event. This is a photo from June 25, 1952, when it still seemed kind of novel. (historic photo courtesy of Wired)

That’s because I remember when the Cuyahoga River could be set on fire by sparks from a passing train. And I remember rarely being able to see the mountains from Denver (while the view of Denver from the mountains was a reddish-looking haze of pollution). I also remember being in Kansas City for only a day, before I could wipe a layer of grime off my car from particulates in the air.

In this 1980s-era photo, the Denver skyline and the Rockies beyond it are only dimly visible through the reddish-brown haze of pollution that routinely hung over the city.
Denver smog alert, 1980s-era (photo courtesy of the EPA).

But the USA wasn’t alone. Irresponsible governments and companies were freely destroying the whole world. So by the 1990s, Earth Day had grown into a global event. We all have a stake in our planet’s health!

Fifty years on, “Earth Day is widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world.”

But 50 years on, there’s still a lot to do

Global climate change is still accelerating. Too many powerful people don’t want to change, don’t want to risk having to pay for cleanups, and don’t seem to think they’ll suffer too many consequences if they drag their feet.

On this blog, I’ve sounded the alarm about deforestationhabitat lossextreme weather, and other aspects of climate change that affect us now–today.

And there’s plenty we can do. Let’s choose greater energy efficiency in our own lifestyles, advocate for climate-wise policies in our local, state, and national government, and stay aware and informed. 

Volunteer opportunities abound. So do donation opportunities. If we have more time than money, it’s pretty easy to find and get involved in local clean-ups, community gardening efforts, educational work, or any of the many other initiatives.

There are as many different paths to a better future as there are people–but time is running out. Fifty years on, Earth Day reminds us that the cost of ignoring the problem is too ghastly to accept.

The image reads, "Happy Earth Day."
(Image courtesy of Earth911)

IMAGE CREDITS

Many thanks to Kresge.org for the “Happy Earth Day 50 Years” featured image, and to YouTube for the 1970-vintage video from CBS. I’m grateful to Wired, for the historic photo of the Cuyahoga River on fire in 1952, and to the EPA for the photo of 1980s-era Denver. And finally, many thanks to Earth911, for the “Happy Earth Day” greeting image.

Happy Thanksgiving

Blessings to count

Happy Thanksgiving!

this design says "Give Thanks."

It’s Thanksgiving in the USA this Thursday. Many nations, cultures, and religions through the ages and throughout the world have designated official days to give thanks. But seriously. No matter what day it is, there are always blessings to count.

If you don’t think that ‘s true–or at least not for youyou’re overlooking some important aspects of your life. Including that you have one

The image quote says, "Life is a series of thousands of tiny miracles. Notice them."

What blessings?

It’s a near-certainty that there are people who love you. Please note: companion animals count as “people” for the purpose of establishing this fact (it’s never wise to discount companion animals, in any case). They are among the many blessings it’s especially important to count.

But also please note that there really are people who care about your welfare . . . even if they don’t personally know you. This means that you’re actually not ideally suited to count all the people who care about you. This is because you can’t read minds, and you don’t know everyone. 

This goes double if you’re depressed. You may not believe it, but you DO have blessings to count.

The image quote says, "the things you take for granted someone else is praying for."

There are politicians who will brag that the economy is booming, and that’s true for a lot of people (particularly those in whose favor the system is biased). If you’re not one of those people, however, that doesn’t mean your life is all blight, unless you refuse to see it any other way. Even the least advantaged among us has blessings to count.

Beyond being blessed

The quote from Camille Pissarro says, "Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing."

The best way to count one’s blessings, in my experience, is to pass blessings on to others. Best of all is to do it with all the generosity we can manage. If you have blessings to count (and I believe all of us do), then you have the means to not only enjoy blessings, but to be one to others.

Believe it or not, the act of giving–of being a blessing–multiplies our own feelings of joy and well-being. We humans are social creatures by nature. We are innately programmed to connect with others. Thus, it stands to reason that we feel most fulfilled, most right with the world, when we can do good things for others

Evolution has dictated that people need to work together, especially in the face of challenges. It’s the most effective survival tool we have. The “loneliness epidemic” of today is a direct result of people losing their connections to others, and thus their sense of purpose, their sense of worth. 

Reaching out to others with a helping hand or even simply an encouraging word is essential to rebuilding a sense of connection. In general, the more connections you make the more blessings you’ll be able to count.

This image quote says, "Don't just count your blessings. Be the blessing other people count on."

The blessing of “thank you”

Never underestimate the power of an encouraging word. It’s the most under-used and extraordinary gift you can give, sometimes. It costs no money at all, “only” a moment of thought and noticing

Over the years, I’ve written several posts about saying “thank you.” One of my very most popular posts is the one on ways to thank first responders. I recently reiterated thoughts on gratitude to veterans, and another one of my all-time most popular posts is the one on ways to thank veterans.

Honoring those who give of themselves to serve our community is always appropriate. But sometimes I like to challenge myself to find others who deserve thanks and rarely get it. If you’re traveling this holiday, you’ll have lots of opportunities. Consider a thank-you or a kind word to an airline or highway employee who’s trying to make things work, in a challenging situation

The image quote from Henry Ward Beecher says, "The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings."

Do you thank wait staffhotel employees, or sales clerks who smooth the way for you? Do you appreciate those skill or knowledge helps you? You might rationalize that they’re only doing their job, but if you use that as an excuse to treat them like machines or tools, take warning: you’re developing a crabbed and callous soul, and it sucks to be you.

Connect with people. Sow peace, not division. Be a blessing to others, and it’s well-nigh guaranteed you’ll have a generous bounty of your own blessings to count.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Vikayatskina via 123RF, for the “Give Thanks!” wreath design. I’m also grateful to Fight for Life via Mimipopa, for the “thousands of tiny miracles” quote, to Picture Quotes for the “take for granted” quote-image and  the “be the blessing other people count on” quote-image, and to Everyday Power, for the quotes from Camille Pissarro and Henry Ward Beecher. Finally, many thanks to Residential Home Solutions (via Hallmark?) for the header image. I appreciate all of you!

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