Keeping Our Planet’s Environment Viable

By Laurie Rosenthal

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t worry about the future of our planet.

It doesn’t matter if you believe in climate change or not. The bottom line is weather patterns are changing, and we need to adjust and prepare.

I read an article related to climate change at least four or five times a week. And it’s downright exhausting. Arctic sea ice is melting at alarming rates, severe weather patterns are happening across the globe, fire season in California starts earlier than it used to, this is the hottest year on record, followed by last year, which was the hottest year on record. And on and on and on.

And water. Oh, my goodness, will there ever be enough water again? The answer, at least in California, seems to be a resounding no.

Save water, save gas, participate in Meatless Monday, recycle, drive less, bring your own bag, drive a hybrid or electric car—there are lots of solutions, but are they enough? Many scientists say we’re about to reach the tipping point of no return. I may not live to see it, but my fair-skinned, blue-eyed child will. I’m panicked all the time.

The Day After Tomorrow is feeling more like a documentary than the action-adventure film it really was when released over a decade ago.

I’ve been aware of taking care of the earth since before I was a student at UC Berkeley decades ago. I didn’t have a car for many years, and got everywhere on my bicycle or public transportation.

I learned about biodiversity while doing a story at a television station I worked for in Santa Rosa. Things were bad then; now, many species are being wiped out at an alarming rate due to habitat destruction, global warming, human activity and more.

When we moved from New York to California when I was seven, my parents traded in their Lincoln Continental for an environmentally-sound Toyota for my mom and a sports car for my dad. Even back then, California led the country in environmental awareness. A few years later, there was gas rationing, and you could only go to the gas station on certain days, depending on whether your license plate was odd or even. Oh, and the lines were long.

In 1970s Benedict Canyon, my mom would save our newspapers, tie them up in bunches with twine, and have someone pick them up from time to time, a rarity back then. Plus, there was the energy crisis, which taught me to turn off lights when I left a room. Then there was the drought, which taught me to conserve water. These lessons have stayed with me ever since.

People knew there were problems even way back then. DDT anyone? The unregulated polluting of our rivers and lands by corporations almost went unchecked. Though many may not remember, or even knew, it was President Nixon who signed, via executive order, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) into existence in 1970, the same year the first Earth Day celebration was held.

We don’t have to look any further than our own town and the No Oil! campaign of the early 1970s, spearheaded by some who still live in the community. Imagine if they had lost. We would all be staring at oil rigs along our coastline, and who knows what else would have happened in terms of pollution.

How far have we come in 46 years, since the creation of the EPA? Certainly we’ve made progress, right? Yes, in some ways. But the earth is cracking under pressure from its eight million inhabitants. How many more can it endure?

What’s next? Every time I now watch a movie like Mad Max, I think there is some truth to that dystopian future we will face. I used to think it was a complete fantasy; now I worry that is the direction we are headed.

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