“Restore the Earth!”
That’s this year’s theme for Earth Day.
Thinking back to the 1st Earth Day in 1970, many things were bleak. Our roadsides were full of litter. There was no EPA. No clean water act. No wetlands protection act. Corporations were spewing pollutants into our air and waters. Yet widespread optimism and activism in the following decade saw the rise of a vigorous, environmental movement that worked to counter the destructive forces of ignorance, developers and corporate malfeasance.
In circa 1970 Richmond, it was already the 7th year for the ConCom and 100 acres of land had been placed into the ConCom’s care for conservation. Reading through old newspaper clippings and annual town reports from those early days, there is a palpable sense of a rising, vigorous effort to conserve our local natural resources.
Sadly, I think the tide of those ideals and aspirations have since peaked and haved ebbed. Our local, regional and national culture and politics have changed so much. The overarching fight against climate change has taken focus and energy from efforts like land, wilderness and habitat preservation.
This year, President Biden signed a lengthy executive order on “tackling climate change at home and abroad” which does include a section on conservation setting what is being called the 30 x 30 goal:
I really hope that we achieve 30% x 2030. Could we meet the 30% goal in Richmond? Mathematically? Richmond land and water area combined are 12,610 acres and we’ve conserved about 1,100 acres. That’s about 9%. To meet the 30% goal it would mean conserving another 21% or 2,683 acres. That seems beyond ambitious. No??? But I do think we should be trying to do our best.
So anyway, back to that first Earthday in 1970. I was only 11 years old. And in my school, our science teacher assigned each of us to give a short presentation — something we wanted to say about the environment. I chose to talk about global warming dangers from greenhouse gasses. I vividly recall the little poster I drew for it. It had a green and blue earth, surrounded by concentric circles marking the layers of the atmosphere with squiggly sine-wave lines representing CO2 changing radiation wavelengths that were bouncing around trapping heat in the atmosphere. All done in crayons on construction paper — of course! Frankly, I doubt any of my classmates got very much from it! And neither my small talk, nor all the speeches and educational efforts over the intervening 50 years have been enough to change or even slow climate change.
But here I still am, still trying to communicate and work for the health of the Earth by engaging locally here in Richmond. Make no mistake, I still aggressively side with conservation and preservation of our natural resources. That is who I have always been and that’s who I will always be.
And I am always happy to meet kindred spirits.
In the 1970 ConCom Annual Report, Chairman Richard Rawson wrote, “”Through constant recruitment, we hope to enlist working conservationists in our programs, and strengthen the commission itself with the aid of an aggressive group of associates.” Right now we are looking for the same. We currently have one opening on the ConCom for a commissioner and openings for associate members. If you stand for conservation and preservation, please contact me at and come work with us. We need your energy and talents now more than ever. Happy Earth Day!