A 2015 Earth Day Retrospective

Here we are celebrating the 45th Earth Day! Yes, it’s hard to believe, but Earth Day’s birthday was 1970. This blog was launched exactly one year ago and I’d like to write an update for every single post – but the most important and worthy subjects to re-examine for an Earth Day Retrospective are Water & Trees.

A natural spring

A natural spring

Water is very much the topic of the moment because of the daunting drought reality on the west coast. Those of us in the Mid-West or the East Coast do not get to be smug however. Drought anywhere, but particularly on our continent, affects us all. Agriculture accounts for 80% of California’s water use, but those same farms feed our country and lands beyond. Let’s get real – as long as we are not investing in comprehensive water conservation infrastructure and establishing serious water regulation, everyone is threatened.

Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?    – Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi

Plastic BottlesPrivatizing valuable water sources is a bad idea and should be stringently regulated. If you are part of the 55% of Americans who regularly purchase water in a single use plastic bottle, you are part of the problem. The US is an 11 billion gallon industry yearly – and we are 10th on the list of top consumers worldwide! The bottled water Corporations acquire rights and contracts to pump springs and aquafers and sell the water back to us as if they are responsible for the source to begin with. That is, if they are not simply bottling filtered (or not) municipal water. Corporations reselling water is by no means the cause of the drought, but they are not helping in the conservation efforts on any level. They are essentially “drinking our milkshake” – as Paul Thomas Anderson might put it.

Bottled water is a massive profit industry for corporations that have limited responsibility to the local communities from which they draw water.    –  Chrisitana Peppard, professor of theology, science and ethics at Fordham University

Water – like air – belongs to everyone. There is such a thing called the Public Trust Doctrine, which essentially holds the government responsible to protect certain natural resources in trust for the public. Nobody has the right to hoard and profit from, squander, or use public resources as a private sewage dump – as is common with our oceans and air worldwide. Water is the resource that has been most traditionally protected under this doctrine, but because of the climate crises, environmental law is pushing to extend the Public Trust Doctrine to protect our atmosphere as well.

Conservation is the first part of the water equation. The second part is protection. We can no longer afford chemical and oil spills and natural gas extraction contamination. The protection of our ground water has never been more vitally important. This is exactly why there is such grass roots push back on pipelines and fracking. They are not fail-safe extraction techniques and delivery systems. Farmers know that one mishap can obliterate their livelihood and food distribution to millions. Too many communities have already experienced the loss of clean, reliable water due to industrial accidents. The desire for America to be energy independent cannot come at the cost of our most vital and precious resources; water & air.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 6.20.29 PMA lot of people smarter than I have been trying to figure out how we can slow global warming outside of cutting emissions. Geo-engineering has emerged in a group of Negative Emissions Technologies (NETs), which involves spraying aerosols into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight – and thus, cool the earth. In my post “Trees to the Rescue” I wrote (and believe with every fiber of my being) that trees are the linchpin to our environmental salvation. It turns out that those “smart people” agree. Beyond acknowledging the uncertainties of NETs, a recent Oxford University study is doubtful that geo-engineering techniques are going to slow environmental warming to the degree that we require, or better than cutting emissions alone. After looking at many options, the study concludes that trees are our best hope.

jGj hugging a Giant Sequoia, March 2015

jGj hugging a Giant Sequoia, March 2015

Trees deliver a reliable one-two punch by sinking carbon and regulating water. Not only do they sequester water, but they filter it and release it back into the atmosphere. Trees are our natural air purifiers, air conditioners, and humidifiers.

But trees require water, so our giant, heavy lifters are going to need some help migrating to altitudes that will support them. Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, co-founded by David Milarch, recently returned from England’s Eden Project, where they delivered 100 giant Sequoia saplings for planting. The environment in Cornwall, England is well suited for the species, so everyone is very optimistic.

In addition to supporting the most powerful trees in our arsenal – we must be vigilant against deforestation wherever it is taking place.

So, if you want to do something meaningful for the planet this Earth Day, grab that reusable bottle and kick the plastic bottled water habit. At the same time, pledge to only buy paper from 100% recycled material and plant a tree. No room to plant a tree? Donate to organizations that are dedicated to doing so!


About the Author

Here at Jenny Green Jeans, by sharing success stories and easy-to- implement tips, I hope to inspire and empower you to continue to make sustainable choices in your life and watch how far the impact goes. Contact me with any questions or suggestions you may have.

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