Sunday, April 18, 2010

Earth Day Thoughts 2010

The significance of Earth Day is something that everyone should be reminded of. A month or so back, Jan from the garden blog Thanks for Today sent out a request for Earth Day commentary from garden bloggers. She was offering a nice prize as incentive to participants. I mentioned the competition on this blog and fully intended to compete myself but getting our nursery ready is a challenge of sorts and until today I just couldn't get organized. The offer is closed now to afford time to review the submissions and render a decision but I can't forget the significance of Earth Day.

Late is sometime better than not at all so this morning I refreshed myself about Earth Day's origins. Here is a site with some background information dating from the days of President Kennedy. It's an interesting journey worth reading.

And here are some thoughts from yours truly, thinking and writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond. The pond's shoreline has concentrations of mercury as all Vermont ponds and lakes do. In contrast, peregrine falcons, once almost extinct due to DDT contamination, have returned to fly the skies here. A recent bald eagle restoration program is showing success and Vermont will no longer be the only continental US state without a resident eagle population. These are great gains for which we are proud. Here are my thoughts.

Earth Day 2010

I was standing in a line at a store the other day and two college students were horsing around. One called the other “Retard” and I cringed at the sound. These were above average young men attending a very good state university and yet some place along the line their parents, grandparents, neighbors, friends, religious leaders, teachers, and professors had never taught them respect. Having spent my entire career of over forty years in human services work and being a parent who wakes up every day to be greeted by a son on the autism spectrum, I am very sensitive to inappropriate language. We need to understand who we share our planet with and how very important we are to each other.

As I look back to grammar school days, autism is something that I just cannot remember. I know it existed but I cannot think of a single classmate who displayed any of the characteristics that are so clear to me now. Over my lifetime, the birth ratios of babies born with a diagnosis of autism have risen from 1 in 10,000 children to 1 in 100 or less. As more research is completed, the ratios become more frightening.

Autism has no known cause or cure but some of the current thinking involves environmental influence to women as they carry their unborn. This has not been confirmed but there are myriad examples of possible interactions that deserve consideration. Many of the food and beverages we use every day come packaged in plastics that are now known to impact on human endocrine systems. Water which we drink is purified by our state of art water processing plants but still contains chemicals that affect us. As example, purified waste water from many Vermont communities flows into rivers and eventually into Lake Champlain. The water is then retrieved, reprocessed and sent on to surrounding communities as drinking water. Measureable, significant quantities of antibiotics, mercury, poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and even caffeine are common in the reprocessed water and as yet cannot be removed.

Some of our homes are constructed with lumber, sheet rock and insulating materials that were manufactured with contaminated products including arsenic. Landfills have become repositories for all forms of waste including forbidden chemicals. Some landfills lack suitable protective liners and older landfills, long since buried, leach waste back into our environment.

Earth Day has to be “every day”. We need to retrain ourselves to take the extra step to properly handle all waste, conserve better, and always think of the implication of “out of sight, out of mind.” In my lifetime I’d like to see autism prevented. It’s possible. But we have to work at it every day. Start today by making Earth Day every day!


Salix said...

George, what an informative and thought provoking post.
So many areas of our daily living affect the environment (or is affected b the environment) and it often feels difficult to know where to start to make a change. For the past couple of years I have become very occupied by the fact that such a big part of goods we buy (from food, clothing, household items to industrial supplies) are manufactured in countries with little or no respect for human rights or the environment - and I believe that buying them, makes us even more guilty than those who produce them. Even trying very hard it is often impossible to buy products manufactured in North America or Europe and our governments - I think - have to find ways to change trade agreements to make sure that goods are manufactured or procuced to certain acceptable standards - no matter where they come from.

Signe said...

Thank you George for writing this post.

Kate said...

This was a very touching post. I've got 2 children and my youngest has reflux. It was fairly severe when he was tiny. We treated him w/ prevacid and cleaned up the mess over and over and over. My husband & I have often discussed how difficult it must be to have a child who was truly sick or disabled based on our experience with a tiny baby afflicted with an underdeveloped digestive system and escaping stomach acid/food. So many of my friends have babies with reflux. It seems that I never heard of it until 3 or 4 years ago and now every 3rd newborn I meet is suffering with it. Some are happy spitters, others like our Paddy were not. And it brings me back to your post and wondering what environmental "thing" are we all being exposed to that could be causing this. Every day should be Earth Day!

Erica Houskeeper said...

Hi George,

What a wonderful, insightful post. Thank you!


Jan (Thanks For Today) said...

Terrific post, George...I hope the cause of autism and other serious disorders can be pinpointed. Thank you for mentioning these points. Sorry it's too late to consider you for a prize but I can still add your post to my list so others will have a chance to read it should they stop by my blog. Take care, Jan