I started volunteering with my local arboretum over 2 years ago after wanting to take a more active role in my understanding of our home. I won't reminisce about this since I've done that at length in my first Human Nature blog post, but this volunteering was also my first foray into environmental stewardship. That is to say, the kind of volunteering I was doing (and still do) revolved around learning about plants and animals so I can actively participate in caring for the environment. This involves work like seed collection, seed propagation, monitoring, and aggressive species removal.
In my case, I have an intrinsic motivation to understand the environment around me. I like knowing about plants and animals that I see because it makes me feel more like a part of this world rather than an observer. Knowing what something is, when it's active, and what it can be used for is a fun skill to have and work on. While my immediate friends and family aren't as interested in the topic as me, it does occasionally provide some insight or a fun fact for them to take with them.
Though, arguably, knowing what something is used for isn't actively helpful to me in modern life. I will not likely need to know medicinal or crafting properties of plants to make it through my life because I can depend on a society of people where someone else is using that knowledge to make things for me. What is helpful, however, is looking past the individual value of something and knowing how it interacts with other plants and animals in its local environment. These properties of life are still important, in my opinion, for everyone to have some knowledge of. If we see that an environment degrades so much that an entire species is suddenly gone, knowing how that species fit into the system lets us know what will be impacted next and how that could impact the larger system. When enough of these larger systems ripple into each other, they eventually hit humanity, so having a base knowledge of this interconnectedness keeps us, at a minimum, aware of when things are going to change and why.
It's here that I find value in my environmental stewardship. I build an appreciation for the complex connectivity of everything on Earth. I'll never know it all, but by actively working to maintain and restore natural areas, I get to learn about my local community. Not just the human one, but the one of all living and non-living things.
Let's dive in.
Earth Day 2021 was celebrated across the world this past Thursday, bringing people from all backgrounds together in an effort to further humanity's efforts of caring and advocating for our home. After doing research on the origins of Earth Day and other days like it last year, I learned that every Earth Day has a theme. These can be all sorts of things ranging from "Green Cities" rallying behind greenifying urban areas to "Protect Our Species" raising awareness for the rising level of extinctions that are happening around the globe. These themes help convey a unifying message spanning our actions around caring for the planet and can help people get behind a cause.
This unifying nature of the theme is a particularly human thing. Since the founding of Earth Day, it's been pretty clear that the goal of the day is to raise awareness on environmental issues and encourage others to care about our home. Yet every year we have a new theme focusing on some aspect of this broad goal. There is something inherently attractive to people being able to rally behind specific causes, which is why this kind of messaging is potent for us humans. Finding the right words to encourage participation in something is uniquely human.
Given the Earth Day theme is a way to rally people behind environmental causes, I want to take a look at them to see if they succeed in conveying their underlying goal. With that on the table, this year's theme is "Restore Our Earth."
Let's dive in!
Prismatic Planet wants to get excited for the planet, raise awareness of its inhabitants, and get smarter about Earth.