Monday, April 22, 2013

What do Earth Day and a Single Starfish Have in Common?

Once upon a time, there was a man who had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn't dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer, he called out, "Good morning! What are you doing?" The young man paused, looked up and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I guess I should have asked, Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?"

"The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don't throw them in they'll die."

"But young man, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!"

The young man listened politely. Then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves. "It made a difference for that one!"

It's April 22nd.  Earth Day. And over 1 billion people from almost 200 countries around the world will be giving a shout-out to Mother Nature, including me. But before you call me a granola-munching hippy (as someone already did by defacing one of our Earth Day posters at school), consider this:

Earth Day isn't about saving the planet.  The planet will be just fine; it'll bounce back. Animals will adapt and evolve, plants will return, water will rain clean. It bounced back after each of the ice ages and the mass extinction of the dinosaurs and it can do it again.

In fact, the only ones who won't be ok are us. We would not adapt.  We would not return.  We would not survive.  Did you know that of the millions of species of animal and plant life on this planet, we are the ONLY ones that are not a necessary part of the food chain? That we are the ONLY species that the world would not miss if we became extinct? The reality is, the world is better off without us. Our relationship with the planet is not symbiotic, its parasitic...and we're the parasites.

So if that's the case, what's the big deal about Earth Day?

Earth Day is about saving each other.  Its about saving ourselves. We're the ones who need help. We're the ones who will be dealing with water and food shortages, increasingly violent and destructive weather, and the wars, diseases, and major changes to our quality of life that we're already feeling.  The increase of turbulence during air travel isn't just your imagination; its a result of the stronger and more frequent storms we now have.  In fact, it has been predicted that if this pattern continues, within the the 50 years, turbulence will be so bad that air travel will be virtually impossible.  It'll be too dangerous.

I'm not asking you to single-handidly solve the turbulence problem or end world food shortages or cure cancer.  It's impossible for one person to do all that.

But its not impossible for ONE BILLION people to do all that.

Today I brought my reusable mug to Starbucks instead of taking a paper cup.* And I took leftovers for lunch in reusable containers instead of buying a lunch wrapped in disposable containers. And tonight my children and I will be cleaning the litter off our street.

My reusable mug eagerly awaiting to be filled by my friendly neighborhood Starbucks Staff.

What can YOU do? Read a book instead of watching TV. Have a meatless Monday veggie dinner. Throw your eggshells/tea bags/coffee grounds in your garden instead of the garbage. Air Dry your hands instead of using the electric dryer or paper towel. Check your email/Facebook/Twitter account less often. 

Throw just one starfish back in the ocean, just like 1 billion other people are going to do.

One billion small actions = one big change.

So tell me, what's YOUR starfish?
*It didn't hurt that I got a free coffee because of it.  You can too! Bring your reusable mug to Starbucks on Earth Day and get a free coffee or tea!  Its a win-win situation!

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