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1969: Earth's Epic Year
by Thanos Kalamidas
2008-04-22 08:10:38
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You could say that 1969 was an epic year for modern human history. By July humanity had conquered space with man landing on the Moon and the Soviet Union sent a space probe to Venus; back on Earth John Lennon, with Yoko Ono, sang “Give peace a chance”, while the first American soldiers withdrew from Vietnam. Woodstock, a small agricultural area in upstate New York, became synonymous with Rock & Roll, hippies and the sex revolution, and the Brazilian Pele scored his 1,000 goal.

earthday2005In September 1969, US Senator Mr. Gaylord Nelson announced that in spring 1970 there will be a nationwide grassroots demonstration for the environment. However, before 1970 even began, a series of reports about the environment appeared that led to the birth of the modern environmental movement. As promised, in April 1970 the first demonstration for a healthy and sustainable environment marked what has now been recognized by the United Nations as Earth Day!

I suppose with demonstrations and announcements on a daily basis we can forget how much environmental issues have changed over the last three decades. Global warming was not an issue, even for science fiction novels, the environment was not a scary subject and that is exactly what makes it scarier. Back then the atom bomb was the fear and a nuclear WWIII the nightmare.

I remember as a kid practising what we would do in case of a nuclear war, naively hiding behind concrete walls. However, that had built gradually and the fear had already left behind some thousands of victims in Hiroshima. The environment was not an issue; it was only the hippies that loved the flowers.

It took 30 years for the environment to become the main issue, but the question should be how much has really changed in these thirty years for the environment. It took millions of years of evolution to reach the level we are today and only thirty years to drive it to destruction and gradually in evanesce? This is the big question, it is what we must remember and find out now.

Earth Day is not just a remembrance, but a chance to take our responsibilities seriously and do something about it. In the case of Earth the responsibility doesn’t lay only on the states' shoulders, but on all of us collectively. Airplanes and cars are responsible for the majority of the environmental destruction, yet the simple hairspray we have at home can make the difference as long as we become environmentally aware.

Recycling is not just a good thing to do, it is an obligation; saving energy is not only good for our wallet but also prevents waste of something necessary and in danger of running out in the next few decades. Energy is the biggest culprit for the damage to the environment, with our homes and, to an extent, our lives have become a constant waste of energy. Think of it, all of us have lived through electricity cuts for many reasons: how did we feel during one of those power cuts? Suddenly we found ourselves without television, computers, electric knives and toothbrushes.

Think of this, when was the last time you went to the local shop to buy milk by foot? A shop that is most likely just 300 meters away from your house; you use your car for the most ridiculous distances and that means use of oil. Imagine now how many people do exactly the same thing and add to that the fact that oil is not something endless.

Countries have already started talking about the end of oil resources. The US administration has been arguing for years for the necessity to start drilling Alaska, one of the last virgin areas on earth, and the damage will be permanent if something like that happens. The Arctic countries have already started arguing with Canada, Russia and Denmark over who owns the Arctic and who has the drilling rights to the land under the ice.

In a consuming and productive world there was no room to waste time; time is money, after all, so everybody turned to nuclear power forgetting what we are going to do with the nuclear waste. Feloniously for years nuclear states dumped their nuclear waste in countries of the Third World bribing local dictators and destroying nature, not only for years, but for thousands of years. Now these countries dump their waste either in their countries or in the oceans.

If the Earth was like the human body then the rainforests are her lungs and speedily the rainforests in the Amazon are meeting their end. Asthma cases increase in the industrial west, nearly 40% a year due to a polluted environment, cancer is coming in new forms all the time and the following question should be: what will happen in the next thirty years?

Earth Day is a time to raise all these questions and motivate us all to recognise our collective responsibility and do something to change the situation starting with our own home and lives.

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Emanuel Paparella2008-04-22 12:21:35
In the year 97 A.D., Pope St. Clement described the peace and harmony of the Universe, "The heavens, revolving under His government, are subject to Him in peace. Day and night run the course appointed by Him. The sun and moon, with the companies of the stars, roll on in harmony according to His command. The fruitful Earth, according to His will, brings forth food in abundance, at the proper seasons, for man and animal and all the living beings upon it. The seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, peacefully give place to one another. The very smallest of living beings meet together in peace and concord. All these the great Creator and Lord of all has appointed to exist in peace and harmony." Such statements of a harmonious Universe endowed by God with its own integrity and internal dynamic balance are common throughout the living Tradition of the Church.
In 1971, Pope Paul VI warned, "Man is suddenly becoming aware that by an ill-considered exploitation of nature he risks destroying it and becoming in his turn the victim of this degradation. Not only is the material environment becoming a permanent menace -- pollution and refuse, new illness and absolute destructive capacity -- but the human framework is no longer under man's control, thus creating an environment for tomorrow which may well be intolerable. This is a wide-ranging social problem which concerns the entire human family." He added, "Everything is inter-related. We must be attentive to the large-scale consequences that every intervention of man brings about in the balance of nature which has been put at man's disposition in all its harmonious richness, according to the loving designs of the Creator". There is a whole theology presently flourishing named "the theologoy of steardship." One has to wonder has anybody been listening for the last two thousand years or so?

Emanuel Paparella2008-04-22 12:29:08
P.S. Actually the theology of stewardship can be found in the Old Testament as well. Genesis 1-11 contains several fundamental ideas about the natural world and our place in it.4 For example, the opening verses of Genesis clearly state that God is the source of all life and that creation is good. Furthermore, the formation of Adam from "the dust of the ground" (Genesis 2:7) highlights the connection between human beings and the earth because adam, the word for "human being," is a play on adamah, the word for "ground" or "earth." The story of Noah and the flood illustrates God's concern for all creatures because it states that God made the covenant not just with human beings but with "every living thing" and that God desires all creatures to "be fruitful and multiply." The ideas that God is the source of all life, that creation is good, that human beings are connected to the earth, and that God is concerned for all creatures strongly suggest that we are to value and respect the earth and its many forms of life. Insights relevant to an understanding of our relation to the natural world are also found in Wisdom literature.9 It emphasizes the importance of nature as a medium of God's revelation, for it presupposes that God's wisdom can be revealed through observation of the natural world. At the same time it points out the tremendous diversity and ultimate mystery of God's creation. Other wisdom texts, such as God's first speech from the whirlwind (Job 38 39), indicate that God takes great delight in non-human creatures and did not create them for human benefit alone. Such passages all imply that human beings need to respect nature, to recognize the intrinsic value of its many creatures, to learn from it, and to preserve its incredible diversity. Which all leads to this crucial question: did Dostoyevsky have in on target when he stated that if there is no God anything is permitted to man?

Clint2008-04-23 00:11:04
1969!! That was yesterday wasn't it! Great year I left school and the Toon won their last trophy, those were the days. Wasn't there a Summer of 69 played on your Christmas radio show Thanos? Always quality and not quantity from this side of the pond.

Asa2008-04-23 07:52:16
There's not enough people named 'Gaylord' these days.

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