By Debra Muzikar
Today celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. The first Earth Day in 1970 followed the 1969 devastating Chevron oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California.
As a child growing up in the 1960’s I spent summer vacation in Carpinteria, a small sleepy surf-town outside of Santa Barbara. I remember before and after the oil spill. Before the spill we frolicked happily in the waves, body surfing, digging for sand crabs and collecting beautiful seashells. After the spill, the once-pristine beach closed for a period of time. When the beach reopened, we could no longer walk on the sand without the bottoms of our feet being covered with the sticky tar. The poor seagulls were covered. The shells were covered. The seaweed was covered. Dead fish floated on the surface and then washed to the shore black with tar. It was a sad, sticky, deadly mess.
Once home from the beach, we would spray our feet with some type of abrasive agent (probably toxic because this was the 1970’s) to get the tar off of our feet. I recall scraping off the tar with a razor blade. The souls of my feet still brown after scraping off the gooey black tar.
This was a point in time when big industry collided with environmental concerns. It followed the Vietnam peace movement. Protesting was common place.
After the Chevron spill one senator made a stand. Senator Nelson, the junior senator from Wisconsin, was concerned about the environmental effects of the oil and gas industry on our environment. He organized the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Twenty million Americans (10 percent of the total population of the United States at that time) took to the streets to demonstrate on behalf of the Earth and against the damage done by industrial developments.
Now over 1 billion people across the globe celebrate Earth Day each year.
On this day April 22, 2020, many are locked in their homes worried about their future. We can no longer take to the streets to honor Earth Day. There are many Earth Day events that you can participate virutally.
There is a bright side during this shuttered time of pandemic and human restraint. Many waterways have cleared and skies have become bluer. Oil and gas production has stopped as people are not flying or driving. With a greater threat, climate change, looming in the near future, this is the time to reevaluate our relationship to Mother Earth and implement initiatives that protect her. Just as the virus is impacting our elderly, it’s time to take care of our most vulnerable mother – Earth.
The Art of Autism is proud that an autistic person, Greta Thunberg (the 2019 Times Person of the Year) is leading the way in endeavors to protect the Earth. Greta embodies this year’s theme of climate action.
Two important books that influenced me and others are:
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962), a book which exposed the hazards of DDT, and became an impetus for the environmental movement
Diet for A Small Planet (1971) by Frances Moore Lappe, which exposed the truth about industrial production of food and how the industrialized meat industry is causing deleterious effects on our environment.
I leave you today with a beautiful flower from my walk yesterday.
Debra Muzikar, is co-founder of the Art of Autism nonprofit.