Earth Day 2012
The Earth’s View (A Speech To Humans)
By Trista L. Pollard
As you know, I have been around for a long time, almost 4 billion years. In fact, I was here long before you were born. Even though you humans have not been around as long as I have, you have had a huge impact on my health. You have affected my environment in extraordinary ways, some which were positive, but most, which were negative. For the most part, we have had a tense relationship. However, things have started to improve.
Since the first dweller, you have searched for methods to make your way of life easier and more comfortable. You natural curiosity has helped you to produce the most astounding, most helpful instruments known to humankind. In the process, my health has suffered from your growing technology. Let me start with the Industrial Revolution (1750-1850). You call this the birth of the machine. I call this “the last time I had an atmosphere without smog.” Major cities crowded with people exploded everywhere in the United States and Europe. I had to add new words and phrases to my vocabulary like factories and emissions from fossil fuels.
After you established your smoke producing factories, you began to focus on transportation. First, you tried to build a self-propelled vehicle. Once you humans succeeded with this task, you decided to build the transcontinental railroad. You were traveling faster and mass-producing goods quicker than ever before. However, you were also using up my oil and coal to make these monsters move.
After World War II, people moved away from the cities to the suburbs. This meant more of you were spreading out. I never had so much “itching” in my life! The constant digging and building almost shook me to my core. my grasslands were beginning to disappear to make room for your homes. Animal habitats also started to disappear. Industrial companies were allowed to dump chemicals anywhere they wanted, including in my water supply. It was a mess!
During 1957-1958, this period was recognized as the International Geophysical Year. Scientists from sixty-seven nations worked together during an eighteen-month period to study me. They focused on my atmospheric gases, ozone layer, and ocean floor. This is when they declared Antarctica a neutral zone, which meant it could only be used for international scientific research.
Once we entered the 1960s, airplane travel increased. Boy, you humans love all types of mechanical movement. In addition to airplanes, travel by trains and automobiles grew. There were more tucks and cars on my roadways and highways. Some of my most beautiful countryside was being torn away to make room for extended trails of tar and pavement. This is the time when scientists examined my atmosphere. They wanted to know how jet planes were affecting my ozone layer.
Finally, during the 1970s you started to pay attention to my health. The United States government formed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce laws that protect my environment. It was just in time because on April 22nd of that year we officially had my first birthday celebration in the US. More than 20 million of you marched in parades, sang songs, and attended teach-ins about me. I thought we were on the right track. However, I had another health problem- animal loss.
During my early history, you humans only hunted animals for food, clothing, and occasionally shelter. As I got older, you started hunting animals for sport and luxuries. I never thought I would see an alligator on some of your feet or holding your papers from work. Due to this phenomenon, the numbers of alligators and other species began to decrease dramatically. Animals were also losing their habitats because you were building your houses in more remote locations. Some of my animals even died out (remember the dodo bird). Well, in 1973 the Endangered Species Act was passed in the US to protect threatened animals and other wildlife. Since the act was passed, 35-60 insects, plants, and animals are added to the list of threatened species each year. These are the animals, which are in danger of extinction. By 1998, there were about 1,200 threatened and endangered plants and animals on the list. What would I be if I had no animals in my forests, marshes, and tundras?
Due to the efforts of sensitive and caring humans, some of the endangered and threatened animal populations have increased. These same humans have also worked to improve my atmosphere, water, and environment. In 1974, the Safe Drinking Water Act was passed. It outlawed the dumping of pollutants and toxic chemicals into my water. This was the best way to keep my water safe for drinking. Scientists found two holes in my ozone layer- one in 1982 over Antarctica and the other in 1988 over the Arctic. Once scientists realized that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were to blame, they worked with other humans around the world to reduce the use of these chemicals. CFCs are chemical compounds that are used as coolants in refrigerators and fire extinguishers and used in aerosol cans. By 1993, you were able to reduce the amount of CFCs that you put into the atmosphere daily. During the 1990s, the US Congress passed tougher laws to protect my environment. Now there is even mandatory recycling in many towns and cities throughout the world. We have a long way to go. However, now that Earth Day is a regular holiday (yeah me!), I am confident that all of you humans will help me to maintain my health. Thank you!
This earth is not only our home, but the homes of millions of others as well. Millions of animals, and millions of plants. It is our duty to care for our beautiful planet. Today I am volunteering with Firestone as well as helping to plant flowers around my school. How will you celebrate the day of our wonderful planet Earth?
Disney’s Friends for Change offers excellent ideas and ways for you to get involved. One little action can cause a chain reaction. Go green!