I still remember my first Earth Day as a young teacher. The year was 1969 and the original Earth Day was on March 21, the Vernal Equinox , as proposed by John McConnell – my class spent the day at our Forest Valley Outdoor Education Centre. John McConnell passed away on October 20, 2012. The Vernal Equinox lives on.
In 1970, I was in my third year of teaching, now a full fledged-member of the profession, as it was known in those days, after my two year initiation. An idealistic politician named Gaylord Nelson asked an equally idealistic young law student named Denis Hayes to lead the first Earth Day marches in the United States on April 22. Gaylord Nelson passed away on July 3, 2005; Earth Day lives on. Denis did not go gently into that good night, but continued both his law studies and his support for the concept of Earth Day.
Denis Hayes lead the event for the 20th Anniversary in 1990 and told a depreciating "lawyer joke" from his son ("You see a long slim body lying in a ditch – there are no skid marks prior to the impact point – is it a snake or a lawyer? Answer: a lawyer; if it had been a snake, there would have been brake marks.) Environmentalists, even environmental lawyers, as Robert Kennedy Jr. knows all too well, get no respect.
On April 22, in 1970, my class joined in the new Earth Day celebration from our community in Flemington Road P.S. We were not part of the 10%, as it was known in those days, the fortunate few, now 1%. We were speaking out for social justice and environmental sustainability. A children's crusade? Most certainly. Only youth has the strength to speak truth to power. My students had nothing to lose but their future.
For the next 44 years I taught and lectured and practiced living lightly, spending quality time outdoors, buying from ethical companies (you are what you buy), introducing trash tallies, litterless/boomerang lunches, and ethical procurement policies for school boards, supporting efficient technologies, developing environmental literacy in the school curriculum, lecturing on the polluter pay/precautionary principle in politics and policies, and to no real improvement. Lip service, greenwashing, and business as usual.
I visit schools in 2014 who are discussing garbageless lunches as a totallly new concept and wonder where the last forty years went.; school boards continue to purchase from the most convenient supplier and bulid their schools to far less than LEED Platinum standards; and The College of Teachers in Ontario ignores Environmental Studies as a subject teachable thanks to Mike Harris. The Darwin Award is alive and well in the School Boards of our country.
Our current government in Canada boasts that the Keystone Pipeline is a "no-brainer"; politicians mock globally respected scientists and ignore and distort the reports of UN scientific climate change organizations; our Prime Minister believes that accelerated global climate change is a "socalist plot". And the final approval for the Northern Gateway Pipeline rests with him. More Darwin Awards.
If this blog site is ever discovered in the future, I apologize to the survivors – you'll need a new strategy. The Easter Island Syndrome is alive and well. In the meantime, I'm going out to clean up my community from the barbarian hordes, plant yet another native species garden, and never give up!
Skid Crease, Caledon