Earth Day a reminder to take our finger off the snooze button

Today is Earth Day. The thing is, it’s not really about the earth, it’s about us. While the earth will go on spinning through space for eons to come, the real issue is how long we’ll be around for the ride. We have become so powerful that we’re dangerous to ourselves and many other species on the planet.

I don’t know what clever words to write that will grab your attention and reach your heart. I do know that it is very likely the most crucial time in the history of mankind. We have an incredible challenge and an amazing opportunity before us.

Every day there is new scientific evidence of global warming — glaciers melting, oceans rising and more intense weather patterns. Our own community is threatened with drought that is likely to deepen if greenhouse gasses are allowed to rise, exacerbating climate change.

To put it bluntly, we are in a planetary crisis. We are in the middle of the sixth great extinction. The first five were caused by natural events. This one is all ours. There are many issues facing us today — loss of habitat, climate change and environmental degradation to name a few, but the bottom line is that species are disappearing far quicker than normal. This loss of biodiversity directly affects our chances for long-term survival, not to mention theirs.

The world is like a fine tapestry of rich, interwoven relationships that have taken billions of years to develop in delicate equilibrium. These relationships form the fabric of life, our biosphere, upon which we are totally dependent. Species are like the threads of the fabric. If we lose a thread here or there the tapestry remains intact and over time new species evolve to maintain the balance. We are now losing threads at an alarming rate, much faster than normal. Our rich tapestry is degrading. We’re losing too many species and they can never be replaced.

Here’s another way to look at it. Take two major issues: The climate crisis and peak oil. Let’s call them “The Wall.”

Now picture us all in a car speeding down the road and we see “The Wall” ahead. Rather than slowing down to avoid a crash, it’s like we’re still accelerating. A few folks are concerned, but their collective actions amount to little more than clambering into the back seat. At this point, hitting “The Wall” is inevitable since we’ve waited too long to take action. Now we have two choices — we can hit the brakes, slow down and just bump “The Wall” then work our way around the obstacle; or we can smash into it at full speed. The second option results from business as usual.

For the most part, we are not doing this on purpose. Americans are simply living the lives we were born into. In our experience, it has been normal to have massive amounts of cheap energy, food from around the world, large televisions and tiny cell phones. We have never known any other way of life. We now know that there’s a better way.

The challenge is to rapidly transform our society in the right direction. We need a future with a future. The first Earth Day was celebrated back in 1970. It was a wake-up call, but we’ve hit the snooze button too many times. We’re now running late for the party and it’s almost over. For 37 years we have failed to collectively acknowledge that we are an integral part of the natural world. It’s time to wake up, roll up our sleeves and hit the ground sprinting.

Much of what we must do is common sense. We have the knowledge, the tools and the incentives to get the job done. There are also tremendous economic opportunities. But our task at hand is far from business as usual. It has often been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. We have to shift our fundamental assumptions about what we know and take for granted in our lives.

Rather than fear this concept, I invite you to look at this as an exciting and positive transformation that will provide a future with a future that the children of all species deserve. Celebrate Earth Day, either today or tomorrow. Get some ideas and then take action. Be the change. Deep in your heart you know that it’s the right thing to do.

The Summerlin Earthfaire is taking place today at Summerlin Centre Community Park, 1800 S. Town Center Drive It is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

An Earth Day event in Henderson is set for Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Whole Foods, near The District, 100 S. Green Valley Parkway. There will be guest speakers from the city of Henderson, Senator Harry Reid’s, D-Nev. office and the Sierra Club.

Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, specializing in renewable energy, green building, alternative transportation and lifestyle choices for both residential and commercial clients. The company is committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. Steve can be reached via email at More information relating to this column is posted at

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