I do remember the first Earth Day though. April 22, 1970. It was a big deal at school and was all over our Weekly Reader magazines that spring. I am pleased to say, by the way, that Weekly Reader still exists! How exciting it was to get this little news magazine at school each week. It was hip and cool for an elementary kid -- and a welcome break from "See Spot run."
Anyway, in the early 70's, the environment was cool. I remember having some folders in school that had some neat nature scenes printed on them. One was a craggy coastline and the other was a deep fern-filled rain forest. As I recall, I loved those folders so much that I made them last two years, even though they were quite tattered and torn by the end of the second year.
There was strong emphasis on the environment back then but it was different than today. Back then, we froze ourselves during the winter. Thermostats were at 55 at night and 65 during the day. The Alaskan pipeline was being built and was viewed as being done in an incredibly safe way for the environment while lessening our country's dependence on foreign oil. Earth Day was a lot about litter patrol. Trying to clean up our neighborhoods. Recycling was getting some play but honestly there wasn't much infrastructure in place to support the collection of recyclables nor the re-birth of recycled materials into something else.
Then, starting in the late 80s and continuing for a long time, the environment just wasn't so cool anymore. People rolled their eyes at the thought of Earth Day. It was for hippies and freaks. Thermostats went back up in the winters. And everyone got air conditioning, something that was unthinkable when I was younger.
When I first got started in the aluminum roofing business back in the early 1980s, we never talked about the fact that our roofing was produced almost entirely from recycled beverage cans. That actually had negative connotations like "Does that mean my house will smell like beer everytime it rains?" (Of course, for some folks, that could be a nice added feature.) We couldn't tout the 100% recyclability of our product because no one cared. There was no reaosn to talk about the low embodied energy in aluminum. Again, no one cared. And, the energy efficiency of our product which was proven by a very expensive study we commissued in 1985? Again, no one cared.
Honestly, I was as apathetic as anyone. As a 20-something, and even into my 30s, I was pretty caught up in the "grab what you can," "life is short," "leave environmental protection up to God and brainy scientists who will just develop chemicals to fix everything" attitude. Don't talk to me about trying to play my part in the environment! And, that plastic lumber stuff? What an ugly joke!
But I am pleased to say that, as I have come around and developed a keen interest in protecting the environment, so have many others. And, you know what, technology is playing a role. Incredible things are being done now. I still think that aluminum roofing is pretty cool for its environemental benefits. What other major purchase can you make for your home that is 95% recycled, 100% recyclable, essentially permanent (sustainable), has low embodied energy, and will cut your energy costs substantially? Probably nothing.
But other cool things are happening, too. Cow poop is being collected and the methane from it is being used for power. Cow poop is also being investigated for its possible use as a building material that is even stronger than wood. Plastic lumber is a viable and durable material. Zero energy houses are becoming a reality. In fact, my company is involved in providing roofing for about 20 zero energy homes being built in Florida this year! It's relatively easy to do your own solar collection for power of energy and heat. What amazing, incredible opportunities there are in front of us.
And, to a large degree, it is up to the Reagan era once-apathetic 40-somethings who have now almost become true hippy freak tree-huggers to lead the way. Once, again, I am becoming proud to be a child of the 70s.
Have a groovy day. And, smile, God loves you.