Times in Trail

Times in Trail: Earth Day is something to be celebrated year-round

"While there might be some people cynical in celebrating Earth Day today, I’m not one of them."

We celebrate a lot of special “days” in the world. Some are steep in tradition or religion like Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, Remembrance Day or Labour Day. Some are deserving like Rivers Day or Grandparents Day or Family Day.

And some are mere marketing tools like Pie Day, Doughnut Day or Coffee Day and, dare I say, Valentine’s Day.

There appears to be no shortage of special days honouring almost anything whether it’s legitimate or not.

And while there might be some people cynical in celebrating Earth Day today, I’m not one of them.

Of all the new “days” celebrated, Earth Day recognition is only about 45 years old; this one resonates with a lot of people, especially in a region that embraces the beauty of nature such as the West Kootenay

There’s no denying we should all be concerned about the health of the planet and respect for the environment. Unfortunately not everyone shares those concerns.

Anyone reading the Trail Times in the last month or so will have noticed the stories we’ve published on garbage.

There’s the disgusting mess left behind by people, like above Sunningdale.

And there are people who try to clean up those messes, like in the Pend d’Oreille recently.

Just last night walking through Gyro Park, someone left a bunch of window blinds by the garbage can. Certainly the blinds were too long to fit in the garbage can, and the person responsible obviously didn’t want to make the effort to take them to the dump.

So, sadly, they think they can leave their household garbage in a park for city staff to clean up.

The disregard that people have for the environment is something so alarming that’s it’s downright depressing.

We all share the world yet some people appear to believe if they take garbage off their little piece of property it’s suddenly not their problem anymore.

It’s enough to make you think people are growing less concerned about the garbage they toss.

Anyone who grew up through the ‘60s and ‘70s should remember the push to stop littering. It was fairly common for people to simply toss that gum wrapper or Kleenex out the window. Pollution wasn’t so much a dirty word as more of a nuisance that may cause a beach to close or stink up the air. Sooner or later, we thought, it would dissipate and we could go on with life.

But then the awareness campaigns began. The powerful commercials that made you stop and think what you were doing to the environment and the lasting impact.

While companies have standards and regulations they must adhere to, there’s no such contract with society at large. If one jerk thinks it’s okay to toss a beer can in the river, there’s no agency ready to swoop down and levy a huge fine.

Unfortunately life goes on for that person as the can floats down the river only to wash up on a beach until someone who cares enough to do something about such things picks it up.

However, before you jump to the conclusion that Earth Day has as much relevance as Festivus, there is hope.

Last month I had the honour of being invited to Mrs. Samulak’s Grade 3 and 4 class at Fruitvale Elementary School. The purpose of my visit was to talk to the students about the importance and value in Letters to the Editor and the rules and roles they play in the newspaper and community at large.

As we talked about ideas and issues that students wanted to share with the general public through their letters there was certainly a common theme – littering.

I left the classroom totally impressed at how the issue of littering, garbage and graffiti hits home with these young people. These are future taxpayers, community leaders and parents and their major concern was not about the Internet, too much homework or even bullies. It was about garbage.

Each and every one of them took pride in having a clean schoolyard or front lawn to play in. Each knew the responsibility they had in keeping the world clean.

And the majority expressed dismay that people would willingly toss their trash on the ground instead of putting it in their pocket or looking for a garbage can.

Not one student mentioned Earth Day in their letters but all shared the importance and responsibility we have to the environment.

Earth Day is much like Valentine’s Day in one sense. We don’t need one special day to say how much we care for someone that should happen everyday.

And we don’t need one special day to think about the impact we have on the planet. That too should happen everyday.

Guy Bertrand is the managing editor of the Trail Times.

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