Saturday marks the 47th anniversary of Earth Day, a global push to raise awareness of environmental issues, and people around the world will hold events to inspire action for clean air, clean water and anything else in the range of earth issues.
Take it from me, one who involved herself in the movement during my time in college, learning about these issues is not for the faint of heart. The discussion involves a lot of death, a lot of poison and a lot of misinformation.
For now, let’s start at the beginning of Earth Day.
Back at the end of the 1960s, Sen. Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin, helped to officially establish a day to teach people about the environmental movement. This was a time marked by antiwar protests and an awakening of thought that industry leaders may not deserve the trust of the people.
The establishment of Earth Day was meant to raise a grassroots movement by way of education and hopefully create enough outrage to push the issue onto the national political agenda. The pot of emotion that was already roiling then boiled to overflowing after the education began, and during the 1970s, a handful of regulations were established to protect resources like water, air, endangered species and to control potentially harmful things like toxic substances and surface mining. A victory was won.
Like anything else, the emotions surrounding these issues were and are still used to the advantage of the ones in power to manipulate situations to their own gain. It is not entirely inconceivable that touting an environmental concern could today be used to supercharge an agenda that only lines the pockets of those investing in harmful practices.
Somehow within my first year in the Students for Environmental Action club at MTSU, I found myself in a leadership position, and in my third semester of participation, I became the president.
If you think getting into the environmental movement would be fun or even a good idea at all, you’ve obviously never researched the issues, tried to talk with someone about them or had any involvement whatsoever with the people that come along with it.
Everything is painted as a horrible injustice, quite commonly without evidence to support the emotion.
Speaking of emotion, there’s a lot of that, too. Nothing like sitting around a campfire with a bunch of hippies singing about their hopes for the downfall of corporate America while burning plastic wrappers and eating food prepared by robots.
Sure, there’s plenty of hypocrisy within the movement, and most would say it’s because the system itself is so corrupt we cannot separate ourselves fully from it. Perhaps they’re right, but then how do we fix something so deeply integrated that our entire balance of society would be upset if we changed it?
In discussions about environmentalism, there are a lot of complex topics to consider. There’s a big jungle of experiences and facts that may or may not be rooted in some evil plan to harm the earth. In fact, I don’t think it’s really anyone’s intention to harm the planet or kill people and animals with their harvesting of resources, but more that some don’t care if that’s what ends up happening, and they’ll go to great lengths to keep the money flowing no matter what.
Fracking is a perfect example of a convoluted issue. No, fracking is not a substitute expletive for the f-word. Fracking stands for hydraulic fracturing, and is the method used to extract natural gas, sometimes touted as the new energy hope for America.
Basically, natural gas companies drill down about a mile into the earth until they hit a rock shelf like shale, and then turn the drill horizontally across the shelf. Then a mixture of water, sand and some chemical additive cocktail is pumped through the pipe to fracture the rock so that natural gas may be extracted. The natural gas itself is said to burn cleaner than petrol, and there’s a lot of it right here in the homeland, so the claim is that the U.S. may be able to become energy independent with the extraction and use of this substance while reducing our country’s carbon footprint.
Sounds great, right? Well, only if you ignore earthquakes, dead cows and flammable water, side effects of the strange drilling process known as fracking.
People living in the areas where fracking companies extract natural gas are disturbed not only because big trucks pack the roads hauling equipment and whatever else, but also because splitting a rock shelf open causes weird stuff to happen underground, like earthquakes and water contaminated by gas to the point where water coming out of the faucet will burst into flame if a lighter is held to it.
At the same time, the product does burn cleaner than coal and of course creates jobs right here in America.
The point is, few things are black and white, especially when it comes to harvesting money-making resources versus protecting the planet.
If you’re celebrating Earth Day, here’s my advice. Get educated about the issues on your own time. Enjoy the nature that has been protected by the freedom fighters that came before us, and if you really want to get involved with a group, do some research before aligning with their ideals.
The best thing you can do as an individual is to educate yourself. And if the symptoms of sadness from environmentalism get too intense, just take a moment, look to the sky, and remember that celebrating victory is much better than whining about the challenges ahead.
Sinclaire Sparkman is The Democrat’s news editor. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports.