By Ken Stern 

Earth Day needed every day


April 19, 2023

Saturday is the 53rd anniversary of Earth Day. In the giddy, heady days of the early 1970s – with or without pot – people celebrated recycling. Going farther meant reusing and reducing.

Reflect on that, on how radical the concepts of reusing goods has become. In the 1960s parents and grandparents returned pop bottles back to the grocery and redeemed the deposit, with the bottles going back for washing and getting refilled. Fewer new glass bottles needed to be made. Aluminum cans once did not exist.

And when was the last time any of us took a radio or TV in to get repaired?

For reducing, how many among us are even bringing coffee thermos to our favorite coffee shop? Using fewer paper cups – or using cloth napkins at meals – is not a significant action that will tip the scales to less waste, but, in a nation that loves symbolism, few wave their napkin as a flag of waste reduction after dinner.

Sadly, even if everyone in and beyond La Conner was an ace reducer, reuser and recycler those actions will not reduce the ever more present existential threat of climate change. The root meaning of existential threat – besides people in the mirror – is existence. Reverse the words, making threat a verb: threat to our existence. We are threatening our existence by our ongoing present actions, today, tomorrow, next year, the next decade.

Oddly, in all those reports the top notch scientists feeding data into the United Nations put out, they are hopeful – given that we dramatically and drastically change our ways. Buying an electric or hybrid vehicle is only a start.

Weather is not climate. But in its March update summary the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report that the “current temperature rise of 1.1°C (2° F) above pre-industrial levels, which has led to more frequent and hazardous weather events that have caused increasing destruction to people and the planet. [E]very increment of warming will come with more extreme weather events.”

La Conner residents experienced extreme weather on Dec. 27, 2022. California residents experienced extreme weather throughout the winter. Can you say, “17 atmospheric rivers from December through March?”

Anyone counting winter tornadoes in the U.S.? No data this time, but in Ohio in the 1960s April and May was tornado season. Strong southern winter tornadoes are now in the news.

The United Nation report “outlines that the 1.5°C (2.7° F) limit is still achievable and outlines the critical action required across sectors and by everyone at all levels. The report focuses on the critical need for action that considers climate justice and focuses on climate resilient development. It outlines that by sharing best practices, technology, effective policy measures and mobilizing sufficient finance, any community can decrease or prevent the usage of carbon-intensive consumption methods. The biggest gains in well-being can be achieved by prioritizing climate risk reduction for low-income and marginalized communities.”

Those least able to afford investing in resiliency and protection from the changing climate are most in danger. Seems like anyone living in a location where a freak sudden storm may occur is in danger. A flood moving east from the Swinomish Channel damaged property indiscriminately. We are all in this prevent climate change campaign together. Or we need to be.

This threat to our existence: how do we focus on it and agree to invest over the long term and change our habits and our culture when the sun is shining and it is warm outside?

Over one billion people around the world will participate in Earth Day activities this weekend. For those of us that live locally, we have the responsibility to continue actions post-Earth Day that reduce our carbon emissions footprint.


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