The great Mr. Twain once quipped that everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it. He lived in an age before the words “climate change” had acquired ominous overtones. Today there are plenty of people trying to do something, not about the weather but about the climate.
The primary thing that most of us are encouraged to do is to use less fossil fuel-derived energy. Use less electricity. Drive less and in more efficient vehicles. Consume less packaging and processing and shipping - all of which, in their turn, consume energy and create waste.
As the United States emerges from one of the coldest winters on record, those who are skeptical of human-induced global warming may be tempted to snigger. Others may be tempted to shudder at the expanding borders of the world’s deserts or the condition of the world’s glaciers.
But whether one sniggers or shudders at the thought of global warming, it remains true that consuming less energy and creating less waste are good for the planet. And ours is a planet so worth being good to.
Teeming with life, rich in water and sheltered in her “goldilocks” orbit by the gas giants of the outer solar system - Earth is a marvel and a treasure. The more that science and exploration reveal about her, the more remarkable she seems.
As we approach the April 22 celebration of Earth Day, there are accomplishments to celebrate and there are many more accomplishments to work toward. The emergence of many poor nations from poverty is one of the great stories of our time, but the added demand for energy and products is already complicating efforts to care for the planet.
New approaches to energy are clearly needed so that, as poverty continues its happy decline, the planet remains livable for everyone.
As decisions are made at the local, national and international levels about energy, research, taxes and spending, the health of the planet must not be a side issue. A livable planet has become a central policy issue for our times.
And at the same time, we must each individually take responsibility for our own consumption. The small things add up; they can turn the tide in favor of a healthy planet.
Arguments about climate change will no doubt continue and may sometimes reflect more emotion than reason. But there is no argument about the importance of reducing the “footprint” we leave on nature.
We are changing the face of the planet in myriad ways, and it cannot simply be taken for granted that nature will take whatever we dish out. Earth Day reminds us to take responsibility for the impacts we have on the planet - both personally and as a society. Who can argue with that?