On April 22, millions of people around the world will celebrate Earth Day, a yearly celebration of this planet and a reminder of the need to protect and conserve its resources.

The annual event has done much to raise awareness about the environment, organizers say, though it’s a continuous process of education.

“In 1970, when we held our first Earth Day, waterways were catching on fire, litter covered the streets, asthma rates were through the roof. we were able to educate a whole generation,” said Christina Cernansky, U.S. domestic director of Earth Day. ”Unfortunately, I think we are being desensitized so we do need to be able to use Earth Day as a day to mobilize the earth to be aware that we do need clean air, clean water….”

The Earth Day Network, which coordinates the worldwide observance, will host a Mobilize the Earth™rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Sunday. The event will feature local and national politicians, civil rights leaders, environmental leaders, performing artists and more.

But beyond April 22, there is much people can do to observe Earth Day, every day.
“Environmentalism and conservationism translates in every community,” Cernansky said. “One of the common things we do, whether in rural or urban areas, is the beautifying of our neighborhoods. So people are not always saying, ‘I am an environmentalist,’ they’re saying, ‘I want to beautify where I live….”

Deon Jackson, of Baltimore, the coordinator for youth outreach for Earth Day, said being good stewards of the environment starts with everyday activities in the home.

“One of the first things you can do is recycle…control how you dispose of your trash,” he said.

And, in inner-city neighborhoods like those in Baltimore where dilapidated houses and vacant lots mar the landscape, people can turn those negative spaces into positives.

“ can transform bigger lots into community gardens and get children involved and get the community together as well,” he said.

Even if citizens cannot devise their own projects, they can contribute toward or participate in government-sponsored initiatives. For example, Cernansky said, in some Southern cities, where budgets are tight, local officials are coming up with creative ways to make and save money. One of those initiatives is the creation of bio-diesels.

“People are dropping off their used cooking oil to be used in bio-diesel creation,” she said. “I’m from the South and we love to fry a lot of things so why not use the oil.”

Other tips, which can be found at the Environmental Protection Agency website, epa.gov, include:
*Drive less by telecommuting, carpooling and taking public transport to work some days of the week; and by doing errands together
*Run the dishwasher only once–no pre-rinse necessary
*Dispose of your pet’s poop properly to reduce polluted storm water runoff.
More importantly, Jackson said, people need to remind themselves of what’s at stake if we don’t take the steps to care for the Earth.
“We want to make sure we have resources for tomorrow,” he said. “If we destroy and dilapidate (sic) everything now we won’t have anything ”

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO