Earth Day: Because it is Right

The World in Spring (Photo by NASA)

At times I feel overwhelmed by the obesity epidemic; the issues seem insurmountable. In that way, I have a lot in common with people trying to “fix” the environment. Which is why I felt empowered when I was told: “Do it just because it is right, even without a goal in mind,” by Wendell Berry, renowned conservationist, author, poet, and farmer, visiting the Washington National Cathedral today for an Earth Day lecture. Berry was referring to the importance of “Being critical of our society’s industrial and financial values… You must oppose these things whether or not you expect to be successful, because it is the right thing to do.” But he said he was heartened that today “at least there is a public conversation,” compared to the 1960s, when he started his advocacy work.

He gave me hope for continuing my obesity-epidemic-fighting efforts, even though financial interests seem to wield more influence than protecting the health and welfare of the world, and at times success seems beyond reach in my lifetime.

This year, Berry was awarded the 44th Jefferson Lecture by the National Endowment of the Humanities. “Wendell Berry is an American treasure whose prose and poetry have— with subtlety, intelligence, and conviction—helped open our eyes to the importance of respecting and living with nature,” said NEH Chairman Jim Leach. “Tilling the land of his Kentucky forebears, he is a 21st-century Henry David Thoreau.”

Earth Day marked the Washington National Cathedral’s kick-off for a year of talks by nationally acclaimed speakers, authors and theologians on the environment. In that spirit, the Cathedral’s Environmental Advocacy Group has compiled small steps we can each take which, collectively, can have a positive impact on our environment. So if you are feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of global warming, extinctions, and the like, perhaps it would help to focus on more do-able changes you can make in your life. Pick just one:

Today I will:

__Turn off the lights, TV, and computer when I leave the room,

__Pick up and throw away any trash I see on the ground,

__Take a shorter shower,

__Adjust my thermostat by three degrees.

This week I will:

__Bike, walk, carpool, or use public transportation,

__Take a day of rest,

__Change at least five light bulbs in my home to compact fluorescents or LEDs,

__Consciously combine trips and errands,

__Take the stairs instead of the elevator,

__Hang clothes on a drying rack or the line instead of using the dryer.

This month I will:

__Use cloth shopping bags,

__Clean out my closets and donate unused items,

__Check the tire pressure on my car,

__Buy more local and organic produce.

 

What you eat profoundly affects the environment, and the changes are easier than you think! Learn more…

 

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