morgan-blog-rollEarth Day has officially been celebrated for 41 years. When it first started, it was greatly influenced by the charged political activism of the 1960s and 70s, and it’s estimated that nearly 20 million individuals across the U.S. came together to rally for a healthy and sustainable environment.

Decades later, what has changed?

We are still revisiting the discussion of sustainability. Nowadays some people criticize the green market, say it’s a hoax, just a way to make money. Some people are burned out on the idea of…well…what are they tired of? (Hmmm…maybe it’s just laziness.)

The fact that we are revisiting environmental issues time and time again doesn’t mean we haven’t made efforts towards sustainability. It means that people care, and that in a constantly changing and progressing world we will have to start making more efforts–all of us.

On Earth Day, keynote speakers discuss environmental issues all over the world.

In 2000, nearly 5,000 environmental groups across 184 countries participated in Earth Day—it’s a beautiful communion across cultures, and an opportunity to open the discussion of our local and ultimately global goals.

But, in order to achieve those goals, we need to make every day Earth Day.

earth-white1What are you doing?
There are choices that we can all make to live consciously, with awareness and intention, which was one of the central ideas that fed the conversation at the University of Denver’s Earth Day Summit on Earth Day 2011.

Guest speakers such as Colorado photographer John Fielder and Stu Galvis from the Climate Change Project came to contribute their experience and opinions.

Galvis, the Chief Visionary of the Galvis Group—a Boulder-based real-estate group that focuses on incorporating sustainability into its approach —opened the discussion.

Galvis began his speech by discussing his traumatic experience when Hurricane Katrina blew through his hometown in Louisiana in 2005.

In the aftermath, he began to ask all of the how’s and whys of nature’s blind-sided blow, and finally asked, what was the cause of the ocean’s torment?

He found his answer in research that shows that the ocean’s water temperature has increased, just ever so much, not enough to make the storms more frequent, but enough to intensify them and make them last longer.

We know there are natural fluxuations in the earth’s temperatures, but is it so hard to believe that our carbon fuel and waste is actually having a large enough impact on the environment to contribute to this change? That we are actually affecting the larger picture?

We can see from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) State of the Climate Global Analysis, which was released in March 2011, that the combined global land and ocean average surface temperature was 0.49°C (0.88°F) above the 20th century average of 12.7°C (54.9°F), and the 13th warmest temperature on record.

Also, the NOAA’s State of Climate Global Analysis Annual 2010, released earlier this year, shows that 2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year of the globe’s surface temperature.

We know there are natural fluxuations in the earth’s temperatures, but is it so hard to believe that our carbon fuel and waste is actually having a large enough impact on the environment to contribute to this change? That we are actually affecting the larger picture?

Live by design, not default
Galvis urged humanity to think about the larger picture. He considered ways in which he could incorporate his living values—compassion for the environment, climate change, and sustainability—into his work environment.

lead-with-sun1Then Galvis joined the Climate Project, a non-profit organization created by Al Gore that trains volunteers to give speeches that educate the public regarding climate change.

As a part of Galvis’s testimony, he pointed his fingers at us, referenced Gandhi, and said: “You need to be the change you want to see in the world.”

He also said, “You can’t change other people. You have to influence other people to make a change. How you live and what you do sets an example for someone else. You all have to be an example within yourself…find your passion and live by design, so that you don’t fall into living by default.”

Galvis proposed that we should add two more R’s to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and said that we also need to Refuse and focus on Resource Efficiency.

Refuse to buy the new clothes this spring. Go down to Goodwill or the Arc and spend a third of the cost, while reusing a perfectly good shirt or sofa, he said.

Rather than throwing things away that don’t work, find a way to fix them. Most likely, it is fixable.

Turn selfishness into humility
Photographer John Fielder shared his love for landscape photography—something he’s chosen to do for his own political activism as much as for aesthetic appreciation.

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Fielder is famous for his book Colorado: 1870-2000, which juxtaposes the historic photographer William Henry Jackson’s images of 19th-century Colorado landscape with the images of today.

Fielder walked to the same spots in which Jackson stood a century earlier. In so doing, he was basically gathering the visual evidence to show the massive changes that have occurred in our landscape over the decades.

According to Fielder, people want to build wherever they want and when they want. We are humanly selfish. We don’t always think about how our wants as individuals will impact others in the long run, or affect the earth.

Fielder said this is why government regulation is important—so that we can implement better planning for the long run, and make decisions that will benefit the community and the preservation of the land.

Economy and Ecology
Fielder’s right: Growth on the Colorado Front Range has been ill-planned, and now sprawl accounts for much of the carbon pollution in Colorado.

Because homes and other buildings are being built in the middle of nowhere, people are commuting back and forth from point A to point B, and as a result, Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) have increased 47 percent faster than the increase of Colorado’s population, according to state demographics.

In Denver, in 1960, the average vehicular trip was 12 miles. Now, it’s 23 miles.

We can lead by example, just as Galvis said, by choosing our passions and consciously designing our day-to-day lives to follow that path.

Fielder says that good city planning can prevent further sprawl and pass regulations, such as Colorado’s Conservation Easement, which helps to preserve open and undeveloped space.

He also stressed that Colorado’s economy has a symbiotic relationship with ecology. Through the only two truly renewable industries—tourism and recreation—Colorado rakes in tremendous revenue.

Colorado welcomed 51.7 million domestic visitors in 2009, a 1.1 percent increase over the record total visitation in 2008, while overall U.S. overnight trips decreased seven percent compared with 2008, according to the Colorado Tourism Office.

Also, although the visitor spending decreased .01 percent from 2008, reaching $1.2 billion, and Denver visitor spending decreased nine percent from $3.1 billion to $2.8 billion, Colorado and Denver received the most visitor spending in the nation.

Lead by example, every day
Colorado’s mountains call to people from around the world. Throughout the seasons people flock to the state for hiking, fishing, skiing, rafting, and mountain biking…the list goes on and on.

We need to preserve the wildlife and environment around us for our economy, and for our humility.

As Fielder said, when we believe in something bigger than ourselves—when we put passion into taking care of our surroundings—we become more secure beings, more humanitarian, and likewise, more caring of each other.

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We can make a difference by becoming politically involved, voicing our opinions and voting for representatives who support our views.

We can lead by example, just as Galvis said, by choosing our passions and consciously designing our day-to-day lives to follow that path.

It doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a Prius tomorrow. (You’re probably thinking they’ll be cheaper in a few years anyways, and you’re right.) You don’t have to install a solar panel—at least not today.

Start smaller. Hang up a clothesline in the back yard—you’ll save money that way, along with energy. Turn off the lights. Buy a reusable water bottle.

Find your passion to contribute to the larger picture, not just on Earth Day, but every day.

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