The first Earth Day, held on April 22, 1970, saw as many as 20 million Americans take to the streets in protest to demonstrate for the health of the planet and sustainability of the future.
Those sentiments have not been lost on many in our society or island, who continue to press for sweeping and meaningful change, greater protections and enforcement of laws, and restoration of spoiled land across the country and world. But environmental rollbacks have plagued activists and concerned citizens alike in recent years as researchers continue to paint an increasingly bleak picture of a rapidly warming future. Century-old images of once-towering glaciers are a distant memory now that many of them have evaporated to nothing. Harrowing footage of submerged city streets have been shared in dismay across the Internet. Weather events that were only predicted to occur once in a lifetime have become the new normal.
The devastating COVID-19 pandemic has done something that so few could imagine mere months ago, by stopping commerce and industry and for scores of people, bringing daily life to an unprecedented standstill. It has begun to reveal that the air clears when enough people stay at home and smog is lifted. It has also begun to plainly reveal truths about our unequal society, as those who live closer to the margins of it are increasingly afflicted with higher rates of infection than those who are privileged in multitudes of ways.
Indeed, what stands out in this finding are the prejudices laid bare by inequality that this virus has gradually uncovered. These prejudices are frequently waged against people of color, the working poor, those who are housing insecure — hatred that has roiled all public institutions in these already troubled times, entering the national conversation seemingly daily without ever being defeated.
If there is any lesson to be learned from this pandemic once it is finally over, may it be that a healthier society is one that takes care of everyone. One whose people continue to press for sweeping and meaningful change, greater protections and enforcement of laws.
On Earth Day next Wednesday, April 22, it is not hard to imagine that many of you may spend the day outside, especially if the weather remains as beautiful as it has been recently. (We encourage you to get out while practicing social distancing.) Perhaps you will take part in a virtual event with others to honor the occasion — or perhaps you will do nothing at all. But it may be worth reflecting on how uniquely cared for this island is, and its people are, by so many.
Vashon is a small community, but much of the population that lives here concentrate individually and together on what actions can be taken to bring about the most amount of good. To preserve hundreds of acres of the island for wildlife and for posterity. To come to the aid of those in need. Surely this is enough cause for hope, that there can be a brighter future for all, that it only needs a start. That when great care is taken for places and people as it is here, that can be a wellspring for good to catch and spread elsewhere. And we hope that somehow, as other Earth Days arrive with the passing of years, we may come close to realizing these ideals with respect for one another and the fragile world we share. That is our wish for Earth Day every day. Thank you for reading.