How much Earth Day has changed in 40 years! You can still buy tie-dyed T-shirts, dance to great local music, and buy delicious locally grown organic vegetables. But now you can also buy solar panels, check out academic programs at UCSB, see what Southern California Edison is doing with sustainable energy, and even check out the newest electric cars from local dealers. Earth Day is no longer just about protest, but about solutions. It’s about creating a world that we want to live in, but that would still be here for our grandchildren. Earth Day has come of age, and that is a hopeful sign for all of us.
Unfortunately, some people still don’t get it, and that is a less hopeful sign. For example, I was struck by the number of people walking around wearing cheap plastic fire hats. Hats made from oil and destined for a quick trip to the dump. It’s not as if the Fire Department needs to advertise or to polish their reputation—in this town, firefighters still rock. But, what part of reduce, reuse, recycle did they not understand?
For the next Earth Day, I hope we all will remember to internalize that message. Use what you need. Skip the junk. It’s an easy step, and one that would make a real contribution toward creating the sustainable world we all want.—Joshua Schimel, UCSB Environmental Studies Program chair