Don’t wait for Earth Day to care about Earth


Earth Day is April 22, just two and a half weeks away.

It’s a day that’s been around since 1970, yet it seems the condition of our planet since then has gotten worse rather than better.

Climate change has caused global temperatures to rise, resulting in more severe storms, wildfires and mega-droughts. Places that are typically cold are becoming warmer, and places that are usually warm are becoming hotter.

What can regular people like us do to turn back the rising tide of global climate change? Becoming better caretakers of whatever small patch of the world we inhabit is a start.

Earth Day is just one day, but its significance should carry over into every day. And it’s all about sustainability and stewardship — which requires daily commitment, vigilance and action.

We can start by remembering the three R’s — reduce, reuse and recycle. That means buying products with minimal packaging, reusing items like bags to carry our groceries, and recycling everything from paper and plastic to glass and metal.

We can reduce energy consumption by turning off lights and appliances when we’re not using them, and when we are, ensuring that they’re energy-efficient. We can conserve water by fixing leaks, taking shorter showers, and watering our lawns only in the early morning or the evening to reduce evaporation.

And, of course, we can find more efficient ways to get around. Do we continue using the same old practice of fueling vehicles with fossil fuels, or do we dive into diverse technologies? And do we really need to take a car when we can hop on a bus or train, or even ride a bike or walk?

It’s hard to believe we can make a difference on our own, but we can. Especially if we aren’t alone in making conservation a way of life. And we can make an even bigger difference by backing more environmentally friendly ways to produce energy, like wind turbines — whether on land or out in the ocean.

One example is the South Fork Wind project, some 35 miles off Montauk, which is expected to generate about 130 megawatts of renewable energy — enough to power an estimated 70,000 Long Island homes. Officials believe that it could eliminate up to 6 million tons of carbon emissions over the 25-year life of the project — the equivalent of taking 60,000 cars off the road.

It’s a start. But we have a ways to go to get all of the homes on Long Island — more than 1 million of them — powered this way.

To continue the march to a cleaner, greener planet, we need individual and collective efforts on the local, national and global levels to continue expanding. If they don’t, we could see significant ocean rise in our lifetimes — literally bringing the sea into our backyards as early as the 2040s. The planet is getting warmer, polar ice is melting, and all that water has to go somewhere.

Since the first Earth Day 54 years ago, millions of people in nearly 200 countries have taken part in activities whose aim is to enhance the planet’s environment. The annual event has helped push legislation in many countries — including the United States — intended to reduce the human race’s collective carbon footprint, and help us find ways to live more sustainable lives.

But the work is far from finished. Our schools need to teach environmental literacy. The media — from newspapers and television to the hottest social media platforms — must circulate necessary, accurate information.

In April, as trees bud, flowers sprout and temperatures warm, it’s time to get outside and enjoy the greenery and sunshine. But as we take a hike or pedal along our local bike paths, or walk along our waterways or the shore, our thoughts should turn to advocacy and activism on behalf of the planet we inhabit. Because we shouldn’t fight to protect the Earth just on Earth Day, but every day.