Every Day is Earth Day – April 2019
We’re in a Plastic Crisis. Recycling doesn’t work.
How to take more action & have hope.
By Lisa E. Papp
I first wrote an Earth Day article in 2015 and have shared it once a year since. As each April 22nd approached, I would feel a sense of frustration and even anger. It seemed that media and corporate advertisers got busy urging more recycling and promoting supposedly green, eco-friendly products in order to “celebrate” Earth Day. The media would report on climate change. People would attend demonstrations to call for stronger environmental protections. Events were organized to plant trees, clean up trash, and give us tips to reduce our overuse of the Earth’s resources. But after Earth Day … what happens? Is it just back to “business as usual?”
I’m always striving to learn more about science and our environment and see how I can tread more lightly on our Planet Earth. In 2018 I saw Annie Leonard’s Guardian UK Op-Ed entitled “Our plastic pollution crisis is too big for recycling to fix.” Something I had long-suspected was confirmed. We think we’re doing a good thing by recycling our plastics. But, as Annie Leonard reports … “Every minute, every single day, the equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters our oceans. In the name of profit and convenience, corporations are literally choking our planet with a substance that does not just ‘go away’ when we toss it into a bin. Since the 1950s, some 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide, and to date, only 9% of that has been recycled. Our oceans bear the brunt of our plastics epidemic – up to 12.7 million tons of plastic end up in them every year.”
Recycling Just Doesn’t Work
Much of our plastic and other materials that we proudly deposit into recycling bins actually ends up in landfills. From there, some plastics make their way into our waterways and oceans. Once in the water, plastics break into small pieces that end up being swallowed by turtles, dolphins, whales, and fish and can kill them. And, with the fish we catch for our food, we’re eating the plastic too.
President Trump, some corporate CEOs and politicians, and some individuals deny climate change science altogether. Fortunately, there’s a rising tide of people who are not so short-sighted. Leaders around the world in science, government, corporate and non-profit sectors, and concerned citizens and environmental activists of all ages, are speaking out and taking more action in a spirit of stewardship for the Earth and all the life that depends on it.
We Can’t Ignore Climate Change
I have been called “Debbie Downer” after I, apparently, ruined conversations and entire dinners by talking about subjects like over-consumption, environmental destruction, and climate change (or “global warming”). I wasn’t trying to be annoying or depressing or a bad dinner party guest. It often felt as if we were avoiding addressing the tough topics and, instead, were “fiddling as Rome burned” by continuing our, seemingly, “happy-go-lucky,” over-consuming lifestyles. I wanted to be able to freely share my feelings of sadness and discouragement about the harm we are doing to our Earth … our home. I wanted to learn if other people felt the same way and if they believed in the importance and urgency of taking more action. I now know that many people feel the same frustrations, sadness, or despair and are taking steps to do better.
“As the environmental crisis accelerates, and as protest movements like #YouthStrike4Climate and Extinction Rebellion make it harder not to see what we face, people discover more inventive means of shutting their eyes and shedding responsibility. Underlying these excuses is a deep-rooted belief that if we really are in trouble, someone somewhere will come to our rescue: ‘they’ won’t let it happen. But there is no they, just us,” writes George Monbiot. He encourages protests and civil disobedience in order to force a political response because “no one is coming to save us.”
#YouthStrike4Climate is led by, now 16-year-old, Swedish student Greta Thunberg. Beginning in August 2018, Greta skipped school and sat outside the Swedish parliament building.” Her parents tried to dissuade her. Classmates declined to join. Passersby expressed pity and bemusement at the sight of the then unknown 15-year-old sitting on the cobblestones with a hand-painted banner.” Greta’s sign said “Skolstrejk för Klimatet” … School Strike For Climate. (from the Guardian UK)
Greta Thunberg is my HERO! She has spoken to billionaires in Davos, Switzerland, and leaders in government … “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act,” she says. Greta wrote on her Twitter that she was fed up with grownups destroying her future and declared that she’d be on strike every Friday until Sweden’s election day on September 9, 2018. She’s continued on since then. Students in over 70 countries are now participating in the weekly Fridays for Future school strikes about climate change inaction!
Talking Isn’t Enough, We Must Act
More ACTION is needed, by many more of us, every day … not just when it’s convenient or on an annual march or event celebrating Earth Day. I need to do much better, too. I just took stock of the plastic packaging that I’ve saved (Yes … SAVED!) over the last few years. Since I first learned that recycling doesn’t work, I have tried to buy less, buy used, and avoid buying things that come in plastic containers and/or wrapped or shipped in plastic packaging.
Using the plastics I’d saved, I decided to create some art projects that made an environmental statement. I volunteer with my Whatcom County, Washington Habitat for Humanity chapter. A “Trashion Show” will be included as a part of their annual fundraising auction. I’ve partnered with a fabulous clothing designer to create a Trashion Show garment using the plastics and other materials that I’ve collected and some used fabric. When I surveyed all the plastic I had, I saw that I am responsible for buying quite a lot of plastic! It was sobering. I need to do much better!
Should those of us with proportionally more money, more resources, and affluent lifestyles who are using more of the Earth’s bounty do more than the “average person” to change our behaviors and cut our consumption? YES! Should we share ideas, and try to educate and encourage others to do more? YES! But it’s not just up to us, as individuals. Corporations and governments must be taken to task and must do much more to enact more environmentally-friendly policies, produce less, pollute less, or stop polluting entirely.
American congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC on Twitter) recently shook up U.S. environmental politics by releasing a broad outline of a Green New Deal – a plan to make the U.S. a carbon-neutral economy in the next ten years, while reducing both poverty and inequality. For years, Bernie Sanders and other leaders have spoken about and pushed for more action on climate change from governmental policies to stricter regulations on the use of fossil fuels and chemicals.
But what about jobs and the economy? People ask this question when proposals like the Green New Deal are put forth. Understandably, some people are concerned, especially those who work in fossil fuel industries. In the U.S., the solar industry is creating more jobs faster than the oil, gas, and coal industries combined, for example. Job training and retraining can happen in solar and other more sustainable industries. Switching to solar power or other renewable energy sources are also positive things to do for the health of the planet.
We need corporations to step up and show real accountability for the mess they’ve created. Companies like Coca-Cola, Unilever (they own over 1,000 brands), Starbucks, and Nestlé that continue to mass-produce throwaway plastic bottles, cups, and straws, are the worst offenders. “Drink companies produce over 500 billion single-use plastic bottles annually; there is no way that we can recycle our way out of a problem of that scale.” writes Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA.
How can we take more positive action? We can choose to stop buying from companies producing so much waste. You can email and post on social media to these companies asking them to change or telling them you will no longer support them. Some of the companies may be able to change their products and packaging and others will not. And, if their response to you is “We recycle” or “You can recycle our cups, packaging, etc.,” you can share info from Annie Leonard’s Op-Ed or this article, if you like.
So, I DO NOT care if a few people consider me a “Debbie Downer” sometimes. I’d rather think about, talk about, and work on what are really the most crucial issues of our time … climate change and the way we relate to our Earth.
There’s Still Hope
I do have hope and I want to acknowledge the positive! There are many beautiful things in our world and so many wonderful people, organizations, and businesses who are consciously being kind to our Mother Earth. Whether raising families, growing our food, providing valuable services through companies that are doing good work in the world and are more “green” and sustainable, teaching, volunteering and giving back, promoting cleaner energy sources, and working to solve our many challenges, there are so many people taking positive actions every day.
The late Barbara Marx Hubbard (visionary, author, activist, and one of my teachers) encouraged people to be Sacred Activists. One of the many important and inspiring things Barbara said was “Everything you do counts forever. You are an expression of the whole process of creation; you are a co-creator.”
With every thought we think, all the words we say, and the actions we take, we are envisioning and co-creating the world we live in right now and the world we want. It’s all connected. We are all connected! Even though there is much to do, we can choose to be positive, do good work in the world, and focus on Love, Peace, Gratitude, Kindness, and Compassion for ourselves, each other, all beings, and our Mother Earth.
My highest wish is for all of us to live respectfully and harmoniously with each other and this precious planet that supports us. Do you agree? My husband, James K. Papp, shares this vision with me.
Peace ~ Lisa E. Papp
Lisa E. Papp is an activist, writer, and an Independent Solar Advisor with Powur PBC. She helps homeowners and commercial building owners learn if solar power is right for their building and, if so, guides them through the process. She can work in most U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and much of Canada and Australia using a network of the best local and regional solar installers with finance options. In the U.S., when you install solar in 2019, you can take a credit on your federal taxes of 30% of the entire cost of your solar energy system. For solar info, please visit www.solarispractical.com to contact Lisa. She is also Marketing Director for InquireWithin.com promoting her husband, James K. Papp’s book and photography.
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4ocean.com – A global ocean cleanup operation that’s stopping plastic pollution at its source, before it ends up in the ocean. Through worldwide support and the purchase of 4ocean bracelets, they’ve pulled over 4 million pounds of trash from the ocean & coastlines to date.
The Bullitt Foundation – Denis Hayes, President and CEO. The Foundation’s Mission is to safeguard the natural environment by promoting responsible human activities and sustainable communities in the Pacific Northwest. The Foundation is located in the Bullitt Center in Seattle, the greenest commercial building in the world.
Catching the Sun – Solar industry documentary.
Climate Justice Field Manual (Free Download) by Jill MacIntyre Witt: climatejusticenow.earth ~ Climate justice is a term used for framing global warming as an ethical and political issue, rather than one that is purely environmental or physical in nature.
www.climaterealityproject.org trains and empowers climate activists across the globe, mobilizes communities, and catalyzes a global solution to the climate crisis.
The Connected Universe documentary film, Director Malcom Carter. This film explores new understandings in scientific theory that reveal a bigger picture of interconnection than we have ever imagined.
Cradle to Cradle – by William McDonough – Company by company, product by product, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute is changing the way we make things.
The Holy Universe by David Christopher – “The Holy Universe connects the dots between challenges faced by ancient cultures and those confronting us today, in ways that inspire us all to take action.” ~ John Perkins, Author of “Hoodwinked”
www.InquireWithin.com – Inquire Within – A Guide to Living in Spirit by James K. Papp, Author and Photographer
www.pachamama.org – Pachamama Alliance is a global community and 501 (c)(3) non-profit offering people the chance to learn, connect, engage, travel and cherish life for the purpose of creating a sustainable future that works for all. Since 1995, founders Lynne and Bill Twist and many volunteers, have stood with our indigenous allies to protect the lungs of the Earth, while also working to shift the worldview through transformational programs (many are free). Donations are used to protect indigenous lands and to share their educational programs with people who are ready to take bold, effective action in the world.
Plant-It 2020 is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit foundation performing worldwide tree-planting at $1 per tree seedling, donates fuel-efficient cooking stoves to needy families, and provides education.
RobSchoutenGallery.com – Thank you to Rob & Victory Schouten for use of the beautiful “Earth” image by Rob Schouten.