Yesterday was Earth Day*. I went into Carmarthen to join the Earth Day event that was being held there. Various organisations had set up information stalls, there were workshops including a fun all-day craft workshop for kids using recycled materials from the local scrap stores, and a series of talks and discussions.
Unfortunately I was only able to go along for part of the day, but when I arrived just after lunch I was saddened to see only about 25 people there (plus a few more in the foyer taking part in the recycled crafts workshops with their children). Carmarthen was bustling on a sunny Saturday afternoon, the event was well publicised, and yet only a handful of people seemed to have turned out.
Nevertheless, the overall mood was upbeat and positive. The people there were in full awareness of the dire threats to the Earth and Her survival, and yet there was a mood of 'Yes we can!'.
The one exception to this was an elderly man who, during a discussion about what we can and should be doing put forward the view that it was too late, we should have acted up to 100 years ago and our lack of action then means we and the planet are all doomed. When someone - humorously - asked him why he hadn't yet slashed his wrists, he thought for a while and then replied, "Because I want to live long enough to know I was right."
My reply to this was that if I was in his shoes I would want to be proved wrong, which kind of took the wind out of his sails!
Later on in the discussion I suggested a monthly e-newsletter to keep all the different projects around the area in touch with each other, sharing resources and information. I think I may have actually volunteered to get said newsletter up and running, which is a bit daunting but also meant I left with a smile on my face and the feeling I had contributed something useful to the day, despite not being able to be there for the whole event.
That evening, along with many others around the country, at 8.30pm GMT I turned all the lights and most of the appliances in the house off for an hour, and did some chores by the light of a solar-powered lantern to mark 'Earth Hour'.
On turning the computer back on afterwards, I was saddened to see a Facebook friend had posted a link to an article from the Daily Telegraph by Damian Thompson titled 'Beat the Earth Hour fascists and turn on your lights NOW!'. When I posted a comment about why I had observed Earth Hour and how sick I was of smug cynicism about ecological issues I was jumped on by many other commentators, mostly climate change deniers and paranoid conspiracy theorists.
It was sad end to a long day, book ended by people from extreme ends of the climate change issue. On the one hand the elderly man at Earth Day represented the 'Humans are evil and we thoroughly deserve the ecological holocaust we have unleashed on ourselves' end of the spectrum, and later the Facebook commentators represented the 'I won't be told what to do by holier than thou greenies who are making it all up anyway' point of view.
Amazingly, I am not (too) depressed by this, perhaps still carried along by the atmosphere of 'Yes we can!' I encountered from most people yesterday.
It is my opinion that this world is too unique, beautiful and sacred to let it be trashed and destroyed. It may be an insurmountable task we have ahead of us in trying to turn things around, but I for one will not give up trying.
* In the UK. Earth Day is celebrated by the US in April.