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STELLPFLUG COLUMN: Earth Day is everyday but not everyone got the memo

STELLPFLUG COLUMN: Earth Day is everyday but not everyone got the memo

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Random as it may seem, major geological events that occur do not take us, the humans of the earth, into account. We were not hit by an asteroid this week. Does that mean the universe conspired to save the planet? Nope. Just lucky coincidence.

We, however, have been asked to take the earth into account when we choose our actions. Seems unfair, doesn’t it?

Earth Day has come and gone for another year of wonderful events, programs, activities and awareness. There is nothing more hopeful than when and entire classroom of children are involved with trail clean ups, volunteering on a farm, or park cleanups. All over the state and the nation, community groups, non-profits and senior centers, come together to make the earth a little tidier, a little cleaner, a tiny bit more inhabitable.

They can’t control emissions, factory run offs or the ozone layer in a day, but they can contribute to the one step forward of mankind preserving the only planet we have that sustains human life.

Not everyone can wash crude oil off wildlife or take six-pack rings off of choking turtles and birds. But everyone can choose not to throw their waste out of their car windows, or off the side of a hiking trail. Some things seem so obvious, but maybe not.

Those of you who have had the good fortune of witnessing Old Faithful or other geysers in Yellowstone would never consider throwing anything into these magnificent wonders of nature, I am sure. Well, I was sure until I read about the number of items fished out of geysers at great expense. Diapers, handkerchiefs, pennies and couches have been deposited into the beautiful geothermic features.

More recently, drones have been crashing into the hot springs. When a drone crashed into the grand Prismatic Spring in August 2014, the tourist was fined and had to pay restitution as well, amounting to a total of $3,200. This introduced a new ruling about drone use in National Parks.

When park officials removed 112 different items from Morning Glory Pool just off the boardwalk they had to be wondering about the stupidity of visitors. Renamed – facetiously – “Fading Glory” and “Garbage Can” the pool has all but lost its glory because of trash changing the ecosystem and its beautiful coloring.

Who decides it’s a good idea to throw their socks or a beach towel into a thermal pool visited by millions, because of its unique features and natural beauty? What possesses someone to consciously damage a part of the earth in an irreversible way? The signs on the boardwalk clearly state even stepping off the path can upset the sensitive geothermal areas. If a footprint can do harm, what do they thing a towel will do?

Maybe they think Earth Day is only one day a year and the rest of the days can be a free-for-all in parks, neighborhoods, rivers and streams. Maybe we need a little more education and a little less ignorance, if we really want to keep the planet livable.

“Restore Our Earth” is a great catch phrase, but not destroying our earth is the step before that. That would not be very brochure-friendly or positive so I’ll endorse Restore Our Earth. But remember Smokey the Bear? Remember “don’t be a Litterbug”? Surely, we all remember the crying Native American. And remember the “Leave No Trace initiative”? It was introduced in 1990 by the United States Forest Service in conjunction with the National Outdoor Leadership School.

All of the above encouraged us to take responsibility. How’s that working? Each year there is a new campaign slogan, and every year we repeat the message.

When I think of my grandchildren, I truly don’t want them to have to rename a whole planet “Garbage Can of the Universe.” It might make a good title for a young adult book, but not for the place I call home.

Kay Stellpflug is an educator and trainer in interpersonal and professional communications. She works and lives in Beaver Dam and can be reached at kaystellpflug@gmail.com.

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