50th Anniversary of Earth Day: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally
or 50 years, Earth Day has united people around the urgent need to protect our planet. A movement that has grown to involve 190 nations began in the United States on April 22, 1970, when Gaylord Nelson, U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, set about planning a “national teach-in on the environment.” Events were held throughout the country and a movement was begun. Twenty million Americans, 10% of the nation’s population, came out to participate in that very first Earth Day.
In December,1970, Congress passed the first Clean Air Act with only one dissenting vote. “Other immediate outcomes included the passage of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, the establishment of the EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the banning of DDT, the removal of lead from gasoline, and the passage of the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Together, they transformed modern America more fundamentally than any other governmental action, with the possible exception of the New Deal.” (Hayes, 2020)
Fifty years later, there is a renewed sense of urgency this Earth Day, as climate change affects and threatens life on our planet home. The theme for Earth Day 2020 is Climate Action. Such an enormous challenge brings many to adopt a “think globally, act locally” plan of action. Born right here in Cedar Mountain is just such a thriving and growing group of concerned citizens, called Moving to Conservers.
In the fall of 2017, with the mission of “Study, Conversation & Local Action,” founders Kim Coram and John Wiseman started having zero-waste potluck dinners with a few friends and for starters studied the Post Carbon Institute’s online video course Think Resilience. As part of the thought-provoking study, focused on sustainability and life after fossil fuels, the course had the group answer the question, “What do you wish you had learned to do in school?” Almost all involved said they wanted to know how to grow their own food.
Coram describes these early days: “As a group, Conservers started to study how to make soil for growing food locally and did we learn a lot! The first thing we realized was that a huge amount of raw materials, food scraps, etc. were being thrown into the landfill. Since then, we have worked to divert scraps from the landfill to those who can use them.”
A county waste management representative estimates that these composting projects launched by Moving to Conservers and other efforts have added eight months or more capacity, or lifespan, at the county landfill. According to Coram and Wiseman, “Our goal is to make this the last landfill Transylvania County will ever need by making it last forever!”
Conservers’ local projects and programs have grown and branched and blossomed into a broad array of services, among them a well-attended county symposium on composting and zero-waste that included:
- an essay contest (20 entries, ages 8 to 60+),
- a seed swap,
- movie screenings at our public library,
- a fermenting workshop,
- a sewing session at Cup & Saucer where cloth napkins were made to replace use of paper,
- a presentation on plant-based diets,
- the establishment of an Outdoor Adventure Camp for Rise & Shine’s summer program and a weekly Hiking Club on Fridays during the school year.
- A monthly educational series has been established and announced on the organization website.
The latest realization of its efforts to build sustainability locally is the opening of Transylvania Shares, a community resource that shares all sorts of items with the goal of reducing individual consumption and promoting equality of access. Currently housed in a room at The Canteen in Cedar Mountain one can, on a modest membership basis, “check out” gardening tools, camping gear, canning equipment, place settings down to the last fork for weddings, fundraisers, large meetings and the like.
Coram and Wiseman agree that the most important lesson they’ve learned through Moving to Conservers is the significant power we each possess in making decisions about creating the environment we want to live in, decisions about how to make a difference from the products we choose to the efforts we take on in order to live in closer harmony with the earth.
More information, photos and projects are found on the web site, www.movingtoconservers.com.