Once upon a time there was a beautiful planet called Earth. Mercury-free salmon spawned in crystalline rivers. Whales sung songs of freedom in the oceans. There was no such thing as smog advisories. The ozone layer was a thick shield that protected living things from harmful ultraviolet radiation. The polar ice cap was extensive, regulating the temperature of the land, water and air. There were lush rain forests and dense jungles. Plants and animals lived sustainably...ah, the good old days.
A lot has changed on Earth in recent times and our planet has become sick. Not so desperately ill that it can't still enthrall us with its diversity and beauty, but sick in more a chronic, annoying way–like a cough that nags and worsens, or a joint that aches and steadily deteriorates.
In the midst of our current federal election, we've heard remarkably little about the environment. It's a non-issue. The Green Party was excluded from the debates and gets precious little media coverage compared with the Conservative, Liberals and NDP. But we can't just blame the establishment. Politicians respond to the issues people tell them they care about–either because they (the politicians themselves) genuinely care or because they want to be seen as caring–sometimes it's hard to tell which.
Polls show that the number one issue concerning the electorate in the 2011 federal election is health care. Hence, key messages this week had more to do with keeping emergency departments open, forgiving medical school loans for rural doctors, and making sure every Canadian has a family physician, and less to do with reducing carbon emissions, protecting wilderness areas or cleaning up the Alberta tar sands.
Herein lies the irony. There cannot be a healthy population without a healthy environment. We depend upon the bees that pollinate our orchards, the quality of the food we eat and water we drink, and the cleanliness of the air that we breathe. We cannot be healthy without a healthy environment. Anyone with foresight can tell you its better to focus on health prevention that to react to the consequences of unhealthy living. Cleaning up the planet is a great start to improving our overall health so we don't rely so heavily upon doctors and hospitals to fix our polluted and broken bodies.
Today is Earth Day. I hope you find a moment today to appreciate and celebrate our beautiful planet. Better yet, do something to help restore it to its former glory – pick up garbage, turn over a garden, hang your laundry on the clothesline, ride a bike or walk instead of driving your car. Municipalities often organize group events so if you're stumped perhaps look into what's going on in your neighbourhood or check out this site: http://www.earthday.ca/pub/
Let's start talking about the environment again, and making it an issue of local, national and international importance. No matter what your political affiliation this is everyone's responsibility. Keeping the earth healthy means keeping its inhabitants healthy. We are not separate from the environment, we are the environment.
Happy Earth Day.