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You Don’t Have to be the Lorax to Speak for the Trees

By Shelby Seas, Seasonal Naturalist 

Rachel Carson is often credited with starting the modern-day environmental movement with her publication of Silent Spring in 1962, which highlighted the deadly threat that pollution and pesticides pose to public health and the environment. By the end of the decade, the prominence of environmental degradation had only increased with a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California and the notorious Cuyahoga River burning due to improper waste disposal.  

Concerned about the environmental crises and inspired by the energy of student anti-war protests, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson got the idea to do “teach-ins” on college campuses to fuel more discussion around water and air pollution. The date chosen for these teach-ins was April 22nd, 1970 because it was between spring break and final exams for most colleges, and that date today is known as Earth DayAn estimated 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day regardless of age, career, political affiliation, or income level. This eruption of support lead to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that December, and several environmental laws that were enacted in the following years, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. 

Author hiking at Hocking Hill State Park

For the past few yearsI have been doing my own little Earth Day celebration by swapping a behavior or frequently used product for a more sustainable one. This idea started as a New Year’s resolution, but I’ve since stopped eating red meat, started composting, and swapped out a number of beauty and toiletry products for ones that are less harmful and create less waste. But of course, I am not perfect. In my experience, beauty and toiletry products that contain the most harmful chemicals and create the most waste, are also the cheapest and easiest to buy. And while I haven’t eaten a steak in probably four years, my mouth literally waters at the thought of any form of breakfast sausageand most breakfast places still don’t carry turkey, chicken, or meatless sausage alternativesbut if you need to know which ones do, I’m the right person to ask.   

One of the best parts about the environmental movement is that it is still just as diverse and fluid as it was in its early days. Even in my circle of environmentally conscious individuals, I know people who are all or nothing (vegan, zero waste, the whole nine yards), while some believe that not using plastic straws or cutting out meat as an individual isn’t enough to make a difference in the grand scheme, and it is big corporations that need to make the change. Neither of these are the wrong way to be an environmentalist, and even if you don’t share either of those opinions, you can still be an environmentalist and nature lover!  

Wallaman Falls in North Queensland, Australia. The tallest single-drop waterfall in the country at 879 feet tall.

The planet and our time on it are so invaluable and there is no time to waste in protecting them both. This Earth Day, get outside, read a book about the environment, watch a nature documentary, pick up litter, recycle that milk carton in your fridge, compost the banana peel leftover from you lunchor Google some other ideas. The possibilities are endlessMaybe just do it for the day, or carry it on for a week, a month, a year, or just every time you remember. Or don’tEnvironmentalism is imperfect. Loving nature is imperfect. And being imperfect will always be better than not trying at all. To reference one of my all-time favorite movies (and a subtle recommendation… it’s on Netflix if you haven’t seen it), you don’t have to be the Lorax to speak for the trees, every little bit counts.  

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