My supply of dry, split firewood is down to 3 or 4 armfuls. The wood stove season is rapidly coming to a close. This winter’s fires have honed my fire-building technique so that one match usually does the trick. Two pieces of split wood laid in a “V”. One crumpled newspaper sheet between them with 3 sticks of kindling crisscrossed on top. One match, then one more half sheet of newspaper, and “Viola!” a cozy fire. Once that fire “catches” the energy, warmth, and well being generated multiplies exponentially as compared to that initial match.
Social and cultural movements also have the ability to “catch fire,” but they don’t follow a convenient formula like my wood stove system. Forty-five years ago this month Senator Gaylord Nelson lit a match; he called it “Earth Day.” The tinder has ignited, and the kindling has begun to burn. But the full-grown blaze of public engagement has yet to catch hold.
How short-sighted we've been when measuring prosperity only by increases in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Senator Nelson knew better. “The wealth of the nation is its air, water, soil, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats and biodiversity… that’s all there is. That’s the whole economy. That’s where all the economic activity and jobs come from. These biological systems are the sustaining wealth of the world.”
If ever there’s been a time for the populace to demand engagement of themselves, of corporations, of government, and of the international community, it’s now. Why now? We don’t have to look far. The keepers of the “Doomsday Clock” have recently moved their estimate up to 3 minutes to midnight. In “The Sixth Extinction” Elizabeth Kolbert describes how we may be on a path to lose up to 50% of the earth’s species by the end of the century. Antarctica’s ice is melting at an increasing and unexpectedly rapid pace.
It’s time we catch on fire. Duty calls us to shake off our haze of indifference and protect our bountiful world. The tide is already turning on carbon use. Last year was the first non-recession year since 1974 that carbon dioxide emissions didn’t increase. 2015 can be the year that Senator Nelson’s vision becomes the foundation for our decisions, budgets, and actions. Because we really have no choice, Earth is our only home. We are forever…Earthbound.