By 1970 the environmental movement had reached our town. We formed an Ecology Club at our high school, and our science teacher lined up excuses for us so that we could attend the “Environmental Teach-in” in Santa Barbara on the first Earth Day. We packed into Frank’s yellow Chevy and headed south. It was an exciting day for idealistic teenagers from a small working-class town, culminating in an “occupation” of the Santa Barbara pier. It was the beginning of my trajectory as environmentalist, field botanist and conservation biologist.
Now 42 years later I’m still at it, but I find it very easy to fall into cynicism and pessimism in thinking about the future of US environmentalism. What was once progress now flounders amidst bureaucracy and red tape. A Congress that once passed legislation such as the Wilderness Act, Clean Air Act and National Environmental Protection Act, now would not be caught dead doing anything that might hamper economic growth. How easy it is to stick our heads in the sand. And what happened to all those idealistic Boomers? are they only worried about their IRAs and 401ks now?
But then I look around my part of North America and I forget about all the craziness for a little while. I remain impressed by the wildness in our country, and the value we put on natural areas. Maybe hope is not so silly after all. It is critical to take this step back every now and then, for the sake of sanity if nothing else.
“It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here.” Ed Abbey
PS I highly recommend Geotripper’s thoughtful Earth Day essay “Only a Little Planet ...”