Monday, October 15, 2007


Today is Blog Action Day, a day when all over the world, people can use their blogs to speak up about the environmental issues that concern them. We’ve known the earth was in trouble for many years now. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring came out in 1962. My friends and I read her ecological call to action in school, and then, on the way home, waved at the crop dusters as they sprayed huge yellow clouds of chemicals on the fields next to our houses. Since we lived on the outskirts of Phoenix, big companies often used our side of town as their dumping ground.

Did man’s abuse of our environment affect us? You bet it did. On our little block alone, we had a young girl who died from leukemia, at least ten people who got cancer, and two of us who developed lupus. Down the road from us, people developed cancer as well a strange blood disease, earning that neighborhood the designation “Maryvale Cancer Cluster.”

The first Earth Day took place on April 4, 1970. I remember it well because I’d transferred from the University of Arizona to Grand Canyon College, a small Baptist school with an excellent teacher training program. U of A had become a hot bed of student activism. We marched against the war. We marched for civil rights. We demonstrated against things we felt were wrong. Coming from this politically active background, I organized the first Earth Day demonstration at Grand Canyon College. Two of us participated, Karen Smith and myself. We heard a lot of So What?’s that day.

So What? Ignoring the fact that we’re in a desert with limited water supplies, Phoenix and its surrounding communities--Glendale, Scottsdale, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, Peoria--continue to woo developers and encourage unfettered growth. Houses are built on farmlands full of chemically saturated dirt. It’s an environmental house of cards.

Phoenix used to be a haven for people with asthma and tuberculosis. In fact, many of us moved here for that very reason. Today, it’s a smog-infested valley rife with the pollen from trees and plants people brought with them from other areas of the country. Allergies abound, and asthmatics often have trouble breathing.

Those of us who’ve seen these changes realize that they didn’t happen overnight. Phoenix didn’t go from a place with some of the cleanest air in the country to one with some of the dirtiest. It was the little things that messed up the Valley of the Sun, and it will be the little things that get it back on track.

The trick is, we all have to do something, even if it’s to change one thing. We can:
• Recycle more
• Turn off the tap water while we brush our teeth and turn it back on to rinse
• Buy lo-flow toilets when it’s time to replace the one we have
• In desert areas, landscape with xeriscape plants, those that require little or no water and replace our lush grass lawns with natural rock
• Plan errands in groups so we make one trip instead of several small ones
• Use the new low energy light bulbs

Or we can do nothing and listen to an administration that didn’t believe in global warming.

Is the sky falling? It looks as though it is, and the only thing we don’t know is whether it will come crashing down on us or our kids.