Making an issue of the environment

We were surprised by just how much environmental news there is on the island right now.

  • Wednesday, April 17, 2019 11:49am
  • Opinion

Every year at this time, The Beachcomber typically includes an environmental supplement in honor of Earth Day. This year, with several environmental issues pressing, including climate change — the most pressing issue of them all — we did away with the supplement and dedicated the whole paper to environmentally related stories.

Next week, it will be business as usual again with a wide range of topics covered. But for now, we hope islanders will take time with this issue of the paper and read the varied stories it contains. In addition to structuring the paper around a theme, we broke with some other newspaper conventions, including having outside writers contribute articles based, in part, on their own experiences and insights. We appreciate all the work they did to contribute to this issue of the paper.

After we made the decision regarding this issue, we did have some apprehension. What if big news happened? Would we leave it out because it did not fit with the theme? The answer was no. But we were in for some surprises as we put the issue together — namely just how much environmental news there is on the island right now. Leaf through the pages and you will see: a push to get the island certified as a wildlife habitat community, work advancing to determine if an island compost facility is possible, the installation of an anaerobic digester at the tofu factory, concern for Western Washington’s trees and even — on the Arts page, no less — a new partnership between Vashon Center for the Arts and the Vashon Nature Center. Mixed in are the articles from the outside contributors: Rondi Lightmark on the possibilities for soil and regenerative agriculture; Scott Durkee and his observations about the importance of planting trees after a trip to Southeast Asia, and Michael Laurie on steps we all can take in the face of climate change. And finally, the good news that the work of environmentalist and educator Erin Kenny is carrying on after her death, with young students playing and learning on the Vashon forestland that has nurtured countless children.

Finally, as we head into Earth Day — Monday, April 22 — it’s good to remember its beginnings in 1970, a time of political unrest. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, from Wisconsin, was motivated to take action after an oil spill off San Diego. As several accounts tell it, he decided to harness the energy of the anti-war movement and funnel it to the environment — and in what seems nearly unheard of now, he reached across the aisle to do so and worked with a Republican colleague. In many ways, Sen. Nelson was successful. That first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.

This year, as we near Earth Day, we appreciate all the environmental work that has already taken place and all that is going on around us right now — despite the many obstacles — on Vashon and across the world.

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