The Bright Side: Earth Day!

Friday, April 22, we celebrate Earth Day. Some people may be saying “so what is Earth Day”? The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970. A junior senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, spearheaded an idea that would involve a teach-in at college campuses across the country. He enlisted the help of Congressman Pete McCloskey to serve as co-chair. They chose April 22 as the day to draw attention to the deplorable state of the environment and encourage individuals to take responsibility for their contributions to the problem. The health of the planet became a political issue. There have been positive changes in 52 years, but not enough. The health of the planet is still in peril.

Fifty- two years ago we were driving gas guzzling cars fueled with leaded gas. The air in some cities was filled with filth belching from factory smokestacks. In Indianapolis, where I lived, we had ozone days when we were warned not to let our children play outside due to the condition of the air. Rivers were so polluted that they would actually catch on fire and burn. Rachel Carson authored a book, “Silent Spring” that was a wake-up call for many in the 60s. Her book raised awareness and concern for living organisms and the connection between pollution, environment, and public health. There were few regulations to monitor any type of destruction to the environment locally or globally fifty-two years ago.

Some change has occurred. Not enough. Scientist delved deeper into the issues that link our actions and the health of the planet. We know more now but are we doing better? I would say no. The planet is not healthy. We destroy forests and wetlands at an alarming rate across the globe. Our state of Indiana ranks at the bottom of the fifty states in pollution. According to the EPA Indiana leads the nation in toxic pollution emitted per square mile.

The Toxic Release Inventory in 2019 recorded that 882 facilities disposed of 123.3 million pounds of chemicals harmful to humans and the surrounding environment. One hundred twenty-three million pounds of harmful chemicals! What is the state of our air quality? Only Louisiana and Nevada have filthier air than Indiana. The measures used to evaluate a state’s natural environment are drinking water quality, urban air quality and toxic chemical pollution per square mile. The ranking considers how each state puts its citizens at risks for long term health effects from pollution. Aren’t you proud to live in the most polluted state in the Union? Does that worry you just a little? Anger is what I feel. Indiana is a land full of natural wonders. From the shore of Lake Michigan to the Ohio River the land undulates from prairie to forest. The marshes and deep ravines hold natural wonders that thrill my soul. To let it be destroyed is a tragedy.

People like me can practice and preach ‘recycle, reuse, reduce, repurpose.’ Recycling is not easy these days. Most counties can’t or won’t afford a recycling process for their citizens. School children can create posters depicting the state of the globe. We can gather in parks forest and celebrate our planet. We can protest the destruction of our state forests. History shows us those actions are not going to bring about enough change. Change must come to the business climate, the political climate, and our individual actions. Make a difference with your vote and your money. Buy from responsible businesses. Demand producers use fewer plastics and packaging. Demand more from the people we elect. Know how your candidates feel about the environment before you vote. Fight to preserve our state and national public lands. The current chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee is not receptive to any bills that would protect our environment. Who appoints the people in charge of our Fish and Wildlife areas, our State Forests? Do they answer to anyone? Be aware and informed. You owe that to yourself and your grandchildren.

The Owen/Putnam Friends of the Forest have organized several activities for all ages to celebrate Earth Day. We invite you to join us on April 23 for a hike in the Owen/Putnam State Forests. We will meet at the Rattlesnake Campground at 1 pm. Following the hike we will have a pitch-in and campfire. The forest is burst with the beauty of spring now. All ages are welcome, an adult must accompany children.

FROGS! On Saturday, April 30 the Owen County Library and the O/P Friends of the Forest will present an afternoon full of fun activities and a chance to learn more about frogs. The fun begins at noon and ends at 3 pm. There will be activities for children in the Children’s Department, including a movie and frog related crafts. Downstairs adults can learn more about frogs and the forest in the Community Room. More activities will occur in the parking lot, including a native plant sale and an opportunity for children to make a recycled terrarium. Other organizations involved in environmental issues will have booths in the parking lot.

On May 7th the Serra Club will join us for a hike through the ‘Special places Worth Saving’ in the O/P State Forest. Wildflowers will be the focus of this hike, and hikers will learn a bit of history and discuss why places like this should be saved. Bring your drinks and snacks. Meet at the Rattlesnake Campground at noon for a hike along the Blue Trail. A campfire will follow the hike. Primitive camping is available in the campground for $13 a night.

Directions to Rattlesnake Campground also know as Primitive Campground: Take Hwy 46 west from Spencer, in about four miles turn right on Fish Creek Road. Go north until Fish Creek Ts at Hale Hill Road, turn right, then immediately turn left on to Keene Road. Follow that to the T, turn left on Surbur Road. That will take you into the Campground.

Hope to see you around the campfire.

‘til next time,


This article originally appeared on Evening World: The Bright Side: Earth Day!