Sunday was a phenomenal Earth Day. The weather was perfect. It was a picturesque spring day to celebrate the Earth.
Around the Rogue Valley there were events, speakers and demonstrations. The group I work for, KS Wild, was a part of events in Ashland, Williams, Mount Shasta, Phoenix and the Illinois Valley. Rogue Riverkeeper and the city of Ashland were a part of the Bear Creek Stewardship cleanup, where more than a dozen truck loads of trash were cleared from the greenway.
It was an amazing day focused on living in harmony with our environment. But as I reflect on Earth Day 2018, I found that something really important was missing. I heard that we need to protect the earth for self-preservation of humanity.
It is true. Climate change will eventually lead to rising sea levels, wiping out coastlines where a large portion of people on the planet live. Pesticides and herbicides will kill off pollinators that humans need for crucial food crops. As pollution increases, we will destroy the very resource we need to survive which happens to comprise two-thirds of our own bodies and makes our planet habitable: freshwater.
This was justifiably the focus of Earth Day. We need ensure that our planet is livable for this and future generations.
But I wonder if we even need all these reasons to save the planet. Shouldn’t we protect the Earth simply because it is amazing in its own right? And shouldn’t we do it all the time, not just one day out of the year?
How about this: I propose we treat the Earth the way we’re supposed to treat our fellow humans. Let’s call it the “Golden Earth Rule”: treat the planet as you’d like to be treated.
We all know that we should treat our neighbors with respect. We are taught to be kind to one another, not because we want something from another person, but because being kind and generous is the right thing to do. While we may fall appallingly short of this goal at times, most people strive to care for each other and their greater community.
Just the same, we should treat the earth with respect because it has inherent value. After all, it is an extension of our community. We are a part of this living biosphere. It is the only planet known in the universe to exist with life. The life we see around us today is the culmination of millions of years of evolution. All life is related, and all life has intrinsic value.
In the words of the astrophysicist Carl Sagan, reflecting on the images of a distant Earth from space: “The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena … To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
The utilitarian approach to nature conservation is valid. But the decisions we make everyday could be motivated by a higher standard; a standard that recognizes that the Earth has value because it is alive. We should tread lightly, let our forests flourish, stop polluting our waters, and simply take care of each other and the Earth.
We can do it simply because it is the right thing to do.
— Joseph Vaile is executive director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild, 541-488-5789, www.kswild.org). His Wild Side column appears every three weeks.