Everyday Should Be Earth Day!
I got home from my trip to Costa Rica (see my earlier post), and pretty much everything in our little yard was parched. Assiduous watering helped, but at some point, I have to ask myself whether I should even be doing it. I live in New England, not the driest area of the world, but we are in the midst of a drought. (It was interesting to see which plants looked barely affected and which ones pretty much gave up. The lilac bushes and the sedum seem to have done all right. The day lilies—forget it.
Sure, a summer drought is not unheard of in this part of the country. But that’s not the only thing that’s going on. Unprecedented heat waves and fires. In other places and seasons, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes.
I’m writing an article now about all the things Bob and I have done over the years to decrease the carbon footprint of our house. Some of those things were choices we made, but a lot of them were possible only because of tax rebates and low-cost loans. Yes, we had to sink some money of our own into these projects, but there is also a way in which the participation of local, state, and federal governments are essential to allowing people to make these choices.
For example, here in Massachusetts, we were able to take advantage of a state program that covered 75 percent of the cost of insulating our home. An interest-free loan from the state also allowed us to install mini-split heat pumps for our heating and cooling. Our city put together a local solarization program that allowed us, along with our neighbors, to install solar panels on our roof at a steep (no pun intended) discount. We covered our windows with insulated, snugly fitted window quilt shades that qualified for a federal tax rebate of 30 percent of the cost. We were able to buy discounted rain barrels through our city, and the city also contracts with a company that provides curbside pickup of compost—using their commercial compost facility protects our compost from rats and allows composting of a greater range of materials than would be possible with a backyard compost.
We bought our hybrid car used, so we didn’t get the tax rebates from the state and federal government for that, but the person who bought it before us may well have done so. All of these efforts are important, and yet there are terrible failures as well.
Right now, the public transportation system of greater Boston is in deep trouble. There are have been numerous accidents, including some fatalities resulting from malfunctioning equipment and outmoded structures. While it is wonderful for people to have insulated houses and solar panels, an efficient public transportation system is far more essential to decreasing global warming. (Okay, that’s my opinion. I don’t have the exact figures, but even if it’s only important, rather than more important, it needs to be addressed.)
These are not problems that individuals can solve themselves, not matter how willing they are to give up meat (done that), stop flying (didn’t do it), or bike everywhere (didn’t do that one either). Public entities like those that made many of the energy improvements we have made to our house are essential.
I attended the first Earth Day in Washington, D.C., in 1970. That was a visible expression of the government’s awareness that we had a problem. But that was a long time ago, and we all need to do more.
The most important thing we can all do now isn’t giving up plastic. (Though that’s a good thing to do.) The most important thing is to DEMAND that all levels of government throw their weight behind efforts to slow and eventually reverse the demise of our planet. I’d love to know what everyone who reads this is doing about this.