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The legacy of Earth Day 2018

April 21, 2018 12:46 am

For 48 years, Greene and Columbia counties, and communities across the nation, have been celebrating Earth Day on April 22.

In that time, thousands of new trees have been planted, hundreds of thousands of obsolete electronic devices have been recycled and hundreds of green-themed events have been held as part of the festivities in schools, parks and nature trails.

But has spending the day in your garden made a difference in solving the environmental problems of the Twin Counties or the planet?

The amount of carbon released into the atmosphere in 2017 rose by 2 percent over the year before, according to Carbon Brief. The planet just experienced its hottest summer on record. The winter featured a relentless parade of snowstorms and blizzards in the Northeast.

The United States is unlikely to meet its carbon emission reduction goals. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Accords, leaving the participating nations leaderless. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt is determined to roll back EPA regulations to pre-1970 levels and dismantle the agency he was entrusted to lead.

Some effort will be made to support the environment at the local level.

Collaborating with environmentally conscious local organizations, the group Mountain Top Progressives is holding its first Earth Day Event. It will be on April 22 from 1-4 p.m. at the Pavilion at Rip Van Winkle Park in Tannersville. You’ll have the opportunity to help clean up the park, learn about what’s going on from local organizations, listen to live music and participate in family-appropriate activities. Wear boots and appropriate clothing. For information, email mttopprogresssivesny@gmail.com

In Columbia County, a Fight the Fences rally will be held by the Germantown Waterfront Advisory Committee to protest Amtrak’s plan to install more than a mile-and-a-half of fencing through five communities along its passenger rail line. The committee argues that the fences will intrude on the natural beauty of the landscape and injudiciously cut off the five towns from their own waterfronts. The rally will be held April 22 from noon to 2 p.m. at Ernest R. Lasher Memorial Park in Germantown.

On an individual level, you can keep your cars in the driveway and travel by bicycle for the day. You can visit your local park and plant a tree, flowers or shrubbery. You can do something to leave a footprint as small as possible on the planet.

There is much to be concerned about when we think of the planet’s future and our overall failure to protect it. Stopping for one day a year to honor the Earth seems hollow and ineffectual.

But Earth Day is still an important occasion. Primarily aimed at children, Earth Day offers a chance to make sure the next generation doesn’t make the same mistakes as the generations that have come before. And it should serve as a day of reflection for today’s generation to acknowledge the Earth is in trouble.

Earth Day should be used to instill a sense of stewardship toward the environment in our children, combined with a warning that it will likely take their entire lives have an impact. It comes down to simple instructions. Walk instead of drive. Eat locally produced food. Grow gardens. Reduce, reuse and recycle. These are words parents have been hearing since they were children.

There is plenty of optimism that today’s young people are environmentally conscious and highly concerned about climate change and carbon emissions. The legacy of Earth Day 2018 is hope for a new, ecologically responsible generation.