We were all fortunate to have lived in Wisconsin when Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day's originating inspiration served the people as Governor, then as US Senator, and left additional legacies as varied as the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and a strengthened Wilderness Society.
The Man from Clear LakeThe contrast with how far away from his legacies and through how much toxic and partisan mud we've been dragged - - and for whom - - is as obvious as is the need to begin repairing all that on election day, November 6th, 2018, or what we in Wisconsin should be calling Earth Day 2018 2.0.
Earth Day Founder Senator Gaylord Nelson
On a personal level, it's taken me a while to regularly practice an appreciation for the natural world which is right in front of me.
And I've had some help with getting there.
So, respect to the iconic environmental historian and author, UW-Madison professor William Cronon, for his extensive examination of our relationship with the world around us that I come back to time after time.
This is the perfect time to get to know his work; here is but one instructive book chapter, and, hoping I do not stumble into trivializing his effort, I'll copy out a few sentences that have helped point me to some everyday truths and a useful Earth Day perspective, too:
Idealizing a distant wilderness too often means not idealizing the environment in which we actually live, the landscape that for better or worse we call home...
That is why, when I think of the times I myself have come closest to experiencing what I might call the sacred in nature, I often find myself remembering wild places much closer to home...the wildness in our own backyards, of the nature that is all around us if only we have eyes to see it.Part of why that "if only we have eyes to see it" stays with me is that my late friend and Milwaukee Journal newsroom colleague Tim Cuprisin had said much the same thing when he found out in 2010 that he had the cancer which took his life the next year at age 53.
"If I'd known I was going to have cancer, I'd have paid a lot more attention to the beauty all around me," he said. "I would have just looked up at the sky more often."
Which is why I try and get to the Lake Michigan shoreline everyday, rain or snow or shine - -
- - and if I can't, I take a walk around my neighborhood where, yesterday, we were treated to cardinals singing, crocuses breaking through the snow and crows alerting their friends that we were on their turf below.
And it's why I have so much respect for people fighting uphill battles against big money and insider influence, like, for example, the citizens trying to force public officials to get smarter, keep their word and leave alone what remains on the already-decimated County Grounds of the Monarch Butterfly Trail and Sanctuary Woods near the Medical Complex in Wauwatosa.
And for the Friends of the Black River Forest, the good people in and around Sheboygan who are working from the grassroots to keep Kohler Andrae State Park intact for the public and free of building and vehicle storage and pavement and bulldozing to enable the destruction of scores of acres of trees, wetlands, rare dunes and wildlife habitat for proposed upscale golf course construction in a nature preserve next door.
Similarly, props to the efforts to preserve rare hardwoods and wetlands in Monroe County from sand mining digging and shipping.
And for the Menominee Indian Tribe's dedication to saving their ancestral land and river from open-pit metal mining that uses sulfuric acid.
And for the awareness being raised about wetland and lake bed filling permissions granted last year by law for the state-subsidized Foxconn project, and also about the specter of industrial-scale manufacturing waste finding its way from Foxconn's chemistry into Lake Michigan.
Yes, for some these sites are all "closer to home" than perhaps for you and me.
But remember that the clean air above we all breathe and the waters below that give everyone life are all connected - - as the Wisconsin DNR continues to highlight - - and we to it..
Which is why it's good to find yourself, as, fortunately, have I, some sort of daily affirmation or activity that keeps those connections fresh and sustained.
So: Happy Earth Day, Sunday, April 22nd.
And let's have a pact to celebrate Earth Day 2.0 on Election Day, November 6, 2018.