Editorial: Earth Day is no time for politics

Happy Earth Day to you – all of you.

On Friday, we will celebrate the annual event that brings attention to the planet and the way people impact it. It’s a holiday born on April 22, 1970.

For more than 50 years, the day has served to spotlight the many ways the environment is in trouble and the corresponding actions that people can offset that impact.

Today, that can mean a lot of political division as the Democrats have taken to carrying the environmental banner, while the Republicans are painted as the pro-business opposition. This is counter to the roots of Earth Day.

While the first celebration was organized by US Sen. Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin, following a California oil spill, he recognized something that is frequently lost today: The environment is not political. The air isn’t just breathed by one party. The water affects everyone.

And solutions are not achieved by only one side.

He partnered with a Republican, Rep. Pete McCloskey, who spent his entire 16-year career in Congress representing the people of California and the GOP (though he would later change parties in 2007 at the age of 80).

This wasn’t the first or only example of bipartisan support at environmental protection.

There may have been no more staunch advocate of protecting the beauty and wildness of nature than Republican President Theodore Roosevelt.

“Here in the United States, we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals. … But at last it looks as if our people were awakening, ”he wrote in 1913.

The Clean Waters Restoration Act was signed in 1966 by Democrat Lyndon Johnson. The Clean Air Act was signed in 1970 and the Clean Water Act in 1972 by Republican Richard Nixon.

“The fight against pollution is not a search for villains,” Nixon told Congress in 1970. It results not so much from choices made as from choices neglected; not from malign intention but from failure to take into account the full consequences of our actions. ”

The politics of environmentalism should follow that thinking. It needs to look less for opponents than it does for partners. It needs to search less for blame than it does for collaborative solutions. It needs to remember that when it comes to the planet, people are not just perpetrators, they are one of the species at risk.

The ways Earth Day is observed locally is in keeping with its beginnings. Harrison Commissioner Jamie Nee has a list of junk such as tires and discarded furniture scheduled for a Saturday community cleanup. The Westmoreland Conservancy will open a wildlife observation blind on an accessible trail in the Morosini Reserve in Murrysville. The Bradford Woods Conservancy will give away saplings at its Saturday event. And these are only a few of the activities throughout the area.

The important thing about Earth Day is to remember that it isn’t a tug-of-war. There is no political upside to fighting over the environment instead of working together to make it better, because Earth is the only home we have.

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