Letter: “The world is going to be saved by people who are saving their backyard.”

It seems to me that Earth Day gives short shrift to the significance of what we’re trying to celebrate: the earth and its myriad ecosystems provide so many benefits to us — clean water, clean air, materials, food, even spiritual sustenance. We benefit every day, not one, from a healthy planet.

Fifty years ago, the first legislation was put into place to protect the environment. There has never been more of a need to safeguard the significance of that work, and to weave that intention into our daily actions. Given the chance, nature can re-boot surprisingly quickly; who has not marveled at the pictures, globally, of clear-water canals in Venice, and long obscured mountains returning as backdrops to cityscapes.  I’ve never seen Long Island look closer, or clearer, across Long Island Sound.       

I love living in this region of the Connecticut River estuary and Long Island Sound, especially for the ease with which I can get to natural surroundings. Even my commute affords me the iconic view of the River and Sound, and the folded ridges on either side of the highway topped with spindly red cedars and pocket wetlands below. This is the landscape of home to me.

And I cherish where I live because of the human community; being able to run into people at the grocery store and on the trail – friends and acquaintances, faces from volunteer commissions. It makes me feel part of something bigger than myself.

What if we could, for Earth Day – every day – expand our concept of community to include the natural surroundings that likely attracted us, and keeps us, in this place? If community is where meaningful relationships are (and where we will rely on the heavy work of recovery to begin in the days ahead), why not think of our natural surroundings as home, too. Nature is the community of life that we share this place – this extraordinary place, with. It is the delight of hearing the first returning osprey, the Spring blush of green in the woods, the smell of ocean in the air.

This coronavirus pandemic is challenging us in many ways, but it is also providing an opportunity to slow down and get in touch with what is important in our lives and communities. To think about what we cherish. Now is the time to let nature have a seat at the table, too, as we figure out what we want, and need, recovery to look like.

Environmental icon and activist Pete Seeger once said: “The world is going to be saved by people who are saving their backyard.” Let’s begin there: at home, in our backyard, our neighborhood, our towns. Maybe that’s rethinking our use of fossil fuels, eating less meat, or, literally, rethinking our backyards to accommodate more wildlife-friendly landscaping using less fertilizer and pesticides.

From adversity comes, time and time again, opportunity. In the weeks and months ahead, why not enlist the entire community — people and nature, to find the solutions that we need to move forward, to the mutual benefit of all.

Judy Preston
Old Saybrook

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