Celebrating Earth Day!

Celebrating Earth Day!

Hugging an Evergreen Tree on a hike in Central Oregon. Photo: Mel Bankoff, Oregon.

Earth Day Greetings!

As I bicycled to work this cool, breezy spring morning in the Pacific Northwest, I admired the many new shoots reaching for the sun, and spring flowers seeking bees and other insects along the bike trail and sidewalks. I vividly recalled my childhood in central India. We lived in an apartment building right in the middle of downtown in the city of Indore. There was no room for any backyard gardens. But we had a very small windowsill garden space for a couple of pots. I remember the excitement I felt as the garbanzo bean plants grew new leaves or when those beautiful red flowers appeared on another potted plant.

Almost Everything in the Garden is Growing Vibrantly.  Photo: Arun N. Toké

We have been enjoying spring flowers in our garden, and harvesting arugula, fennel shoots, green onions, etc. Apple trees and various berries are doing their usual spring growth with a promise of bountiful fruit harvest! And, various nature hikes in the area fill our hearts with a sense of appreciation and gratitude to Mother Nature.

While many of us might be looking forward to visiting some special wonders of nature during school break this year—Denali, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Grand Titon, Redwoods or another beautiful place—like the Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, let us not forget that natural beauty can be found all around us, even in our backyard!

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona. Photo: Arianna Shaprow, age 13, Nevada.

Yet, I must share my deep sadness with you. Everyday, I am feeling the pain of countless children, mothers and fathers in places like the Gaza, Sudan, and Ukraine, where wars, climate change and droughts make living conditions dire for tens of millions. The military operations and environmental destruction responsible for human suffering go on unabated. Governments, including ours, are unresponsive to the needs of innocent, civilian victims. The human rights of millions of children, women and men are being violated. They are forced to live in subhuman conditions. Even in our own cities all across this so-called rich nation, countless homeless men and women live in less than desirable conditions. We are told there is no money for social programs, as the government spends close to a trillion dollars on feeding the war machines.

Skipping Stones, like any other socially responsible media outlet, has often shed light on the plight of suffering humanity around the world. While we don’t want to forget this pain and suffering, we also don’t want our readers to get depressed by the doom and gloom that’s all around us.

The list of issues we can and must face is long. It includes our ever-increasing use of plastics and forever-chemicals, the decimation of insect and bird populations, the climate change, disappearing glaciers, deforestation and destruction of natural habitats, over-fishing and overgrazing, mindless mining of fossil fuels, environmental pollution, groundwater contamination, land-use issues, nuclear weapons, environmental and social justice, and homelessness, poverty and hunger. You can add many more items to this list—both of local concern and global importance!

Our future survival and flourishing depends on how we respond to these problems we have created with our ever-increasing consumption of resources, economic systems, greed, privatization and exploitation of resources, for example.

You might like to ask yourself a few deep questions (see some examples below) and try to answer them honestly and at length:

What do we love about where we live?
How can we make a difference right where we are planted, in our communities?
How can we let Mother Earth know how much we love her?
What might we cultivate in our own backyard?
How can we help out our neighbors?
What small thing might we do today to heal the world and ourselves?
What is happiness?
What makes us really happy—happiness that might last for a really long while?
How much of material consumption is sufficient or plenty for our happiness?
What is the law of diminishing returns?
What is the difference between needs and wants?

And as a group of friends or community, we might ask:

Can an economy based on ever-increasing growth be sustained? 
Can we continue to use natural resources in an uncontrolled manner?
What can we as a community or society do to minimize our negative impact on nature?
As conscientious citizen and human beings, how can we respond constructively?

A Roadside Plant on the Big Island, Hawaii. Photo: Arun N. Toké.

Let us not abuse the gifts we have been granted by Mother Nature. Let us not knowingly degrade or destroy the very web of life of which we are an integral part. Human life cannot continue without this web of life—our biosphere. As “intelligent” species, we must address these issues that we have created collectively since industrialization.

Let us make an effort to appreciate the beauty around us, as we work to address these adversities. Let’s respect the many miracles of nature that surround us. Let us learn to enjoy even the smallest gifts that we receive everyday, be it listening to a bird song, fluttering of a butterfly or hummingbird, observing a cluster of green leaves or the multitude of seeds and fruits that plants produce.

Let us be grateful for the many blessings we have been granted. Let us live fully and let nature live—in all its glory! Let us commit ourselves to doing what we can to sustain these blessings, this beauty, for all future generations.

A Banyan Tree on the Big Island, Hawaii. Photo: Arun N. Toké

Dear fellow earthlings, let’s remember that Earth Day is not just April 22nd; we can observe it each and every day.

—Arun Narayan Toké, Skipping Stones editor.