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Editorial: Now more than ever, we must ‘Vote Earth’

Published: 4/21/2019 12:05:17 AM

Tomorrow is Earth Day, an event its organizers call the largest single-day secular celebration ever held.

Earth Day was created by the late Wisconsin senator and pioneer environmentalist Gaylord Nelson in 1970 to warn that the planet was at risk and in need of far better human stewardship. Its success led to the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, Endangered Species and Toxic Substances Control acts and the creation of the EPA. Improvements, particularly in the quality of the nation’s air and water, soon followed, but they weren’t enough.

In 1970, the year Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix died and Melania Trump was born, the world’s population was 3.7 billion. It has since more than doubled to 7.7 billion. It’s projected to grow to 9.8 billion by 2050.

The human proliferation has come at the expense of other species. Since 1970, according to the Zoological Society of London, an organization founded nearly two centuries ago, the world’s wildlife population has declined by 60 percent. Insect populations, including 14 species of New Hampshire’s wild bees, have fallen even more.

Scientists are debating whether the Earth may be undergoing its sixth mass extinction, a slow-motion catastrophe driven largely by land clearing for agriculture, pesticides and other pollutants, and human-induced climate change.

The theme of Earth Day 2019 is “Protect Our Species”; the goal, a global effort to slow and then stop what has become an accelerating rate of extinction.

Wealthy nations must help poorer ones preserve jungles and rain forests. Wildlife must become too valuable to local economies for them to tolerate the poaching that’s decimating the world’s population of elephants, rhinos and tigers. The nations that provide a market for animal products like ivory, rhino horns, tiger paws and bear gallbladders should be sanctioned, ostracized and scorned.

The world’s population is not only growing, great strides have been made in reducing global poverty and disease. More people will require more food. Less poverty means more people will be able to afford food that weighs heavily on the land, including the planet’s nearly 1 billion cows.

Here there is hope for optimism. Rapid strides are being made in the creation of meat substitutes and lab-grown meat that never sees a ranch or a feedlot. If those products ultimately offer tasty protein options for less than the price of meat on the hoof, the planet and its wildlife will be better off.

This spring, many schoolchildren will learn about conservation. Some will engage, along with countless others, in service projects like planting trees and removing litter.

But there is a grim irony in celebrating Earth Day 2019, at least in the United States. The president has vowed to pull out of the 195-nation Paris climate accords and a coal industry lobbyist committed to reducing environmental regulation has just been confirmed as the head of the EPA.

This year’s theme for Earth Day may be the protection of species but that can’t occur unless countries are run by people who care more about the planet than profit, people who understand the dire threat posed by climate change and are willing to act to address it.

For us that means that this year, and every year, the theme should be “Vote Earth.” It’s a pronouncement that should be on T-shirts, hats, billboards, bumper stickers and hashtags.

It’s time to reject any candidate, at any level, who isn’t committed to preserving species, protecting public lands and combating climate change.

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