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home : opinions : opinions April 15, 2014

4/16/2013 9:59:00 PM
Column: Earth Day saved a decaying world
Tom Cantlon
Courier Columnist

I should have known. A while back I was up on Granite Mountain, which has some inspiring views, and of course the muse insisted on some wild hair of inspiration. So here it is.

Mountaintops are wonderful things, literally, metaphorically, philosophically, spiritually. There are two problems with mountains: not going up, and not coming back.

Moses went to the mountaintop, saw the promised land, came back down, and led his people step by step toward it. Martin Luther King, Jr. saw a vision from the mountaintop, came back and laid out that vision for others to see and, in his remaining time, worked to get us closer to that vision.

Some of the more errant and trendy spiritual leaders go to the mountaintop but never come down. They find it so wonderful there they just think everyone should come up and join them, and they call to all who will listen. You can't get anywhere staying on the mountaintop, though; no progress is made.

Here's a current event to apply that little bit of inspiration to. Earth Day is coming up this weekend and it started with people who had vision. Before Earth Day started, and before the environmental movement got going, the obvious signs of how badly we were treating the environment, and how large our effect on it was, were pretty bad. If you're old enough, you will remember. In many of our bigger cities you couldn't see more than a few blocks away. A new word, "smog," was coined. Rivers, especially in big cities, were considered industrial dead zones.

Now in many cities the banks along rivers are considered desirable places and walkways are built and cafes take in the view. Before things were cleaned up you would no more want to walk down by the river than you would walk through the harshest industrial part of town, or by the dump. Famously, the Cuyahoga River had so much junk floating on it that it caught fire. I grew up in Ohio and remember the news stories.

In those days, to think that we could clean up much of the air pollution, or turn urban rivers into pleasant places to be, was a pipe dream, but some people dreamed it. They didn't just have the vision, they took the steps toward it.

There had been interest in conservation going back a century before, with the start of the national parks and the writings of John Muir and such. The idea, though, that we were having such an impact on the Earth that we were spoiling our own living space, and the further idea that we could change that, and change it not just to slow the process down but actually clean up our messes, was something new. Another word not commonly known began to enter discussion: ecology.

From the mid-'60s through the early '70s there was a strong informal push to do something about it, leading to a series of official acts, conservation acts, preservation acts for river systems, the first environmental policy, the Clean Air act, the Clean Water act, and more. Many of them were signed during Richard Nixon's time.

It started off with a small number of people who had what seemed like a fringe notion, worrying about air and water quality, which gradually gained the agreement of the majority that this was something we needed to do something about, a task we needed to take on. It became a source of pride later on that we did tackle it, and that we succeeded to a great extent, to our tremendous benefit.

Grab some of that Earth Day spirit for yourself and take some pride and enjoyment of the fruits of it. It's our tax dollars that go to these efforts. It's the continued desire of the public to maintain these standards that keeps these programs going.

Grab some of that spirit in a more personal way, too. Go for a walk, spend some time in nature, go see the beautiful Upper Verde River in spring, enjoy what we've made a priority of and have to show for it. Or go up on Granite Mountain or some other literal or philosophical mountain and get a bit of your own vision.

Where do we go from here? Have we arrived in the promised land or are there other things we need to envision, other tasks we need to tackle, other things you value that need tending to, so that people 50 years from now can take pride in and enjoy the benefits of what we see from the mountaintop today?

There are some events on the square on Saturday for Earth Day, and some park events and cleanups. Be a part of it and refresh your connection with the Earth and celebrate the vision that was seen all those decades ago.

Tom Cantlon is a longtime local resident, business owner and writer. Contact him at TomCantlon@TomCantlon.com.

Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, April 19, 2013
Article comment by: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein

P.S. I apolgize to John Galt as well.

Posted: Friday, April 19, 2013
Article comment by: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein

TO: TO: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein, who wrote: "I do believe however you messed up with your reply to John Galt. Jesus was not in the first Hebrew bible."

Absolutely right! Jesus had nothing to do with Sodom and Gomorrah, they were before His time.

Thank you for the compliment, and I am sorry to have let you down.

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Article comment by: @ john galt

you might want to change your alias. We get the Tea Party reference to Atlas Shrugged, and your advocacy of "rational selfishness" above a society that strives to ensure welfare of (or would you say "for") all members. But John Galt was also a mouthpiece for Ayn Rand's atheistic views as you would read in his speech toward the end of the book, Galt blames much of societal malaise on what Rand saw as the belief crutch.

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Article comment by: kw ..

It takes a wealthy nation to be able to afford to conserve and protect the environment.

Gotah and dutch, You give up? I’m sure your God loves that you wouldn’t lift a finger to help this world or the people in it. I also wonder if your Satan would trick you into self-righteous delusion and inability to care about anything or anyone but your own skin and make you think it is the great God that you serve and self-confidently wait for. You are beyond that sort of trickery though. The great you could not be fooled. The creation needs you to step down from your high-horse of self-certified humbleness and excuse-to-be-lazy and get to work here in the dirt. But I know about lazy people, so we will carry on without you in hopes you will find the humility of a true believer (which unfortunately I am probably not – I do it for other reasons more related to the future economics and well-being of my children)

Tomorrow is promised to no one! No matter what they believe or how strongly they believe. Facts are stubborn things my friends. Wishes are like fishes.

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Article comment by: Too Late?

I do feel it's too late to save our planet today, since it takes the whole world's population to contribute. Our ignorance eventually is our downfall.

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Article comment by: TO: Hokas Pokas

Ever the eternal optimist, glass half full? Good for trees, bad for global warming. Oxygen is good for you to, in the proper proportions of air. Too much and it kills you.

Fossil fuel was cheap and it did bring us a long way. Perhaps we didn't understand the true costs then, we do now. If the costs now are disproportionate to the gain, can we afford business as usual? I have hopes for my kids and their kids. There will never be enough evidence for global warming or the human part of it for some individuals. The majority consensus of science is that the earth is warming and that co2 is a large part of the problem.

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Article comment by: w ru

most self proclaimed conservatives are not conservative.

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Article comment by: TO: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein

Sam, I have great respect for your critical thinking. I do believe however you messed up with your reply to John Galt. Jesus was not in the first Hebrew bible.

I do have a problem with Christian thinking however. It is their generally accepted belief that this world does not really matter since they are going to a far better place. So, with this kind of belief, why take care of this here and now world? Everything will be OK on the other side, so just keep screwing it up.

I think 7 billion people is way to many, earth won't keep forgiving, it can't. We are heading for a big crash and it won't be because God wants it. It will be because of our own greed and short sightedness. Exactly the same as those who find fault in having an Earth Day.

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Article comment by: Hokas Pokas

@ Ron R, Harvey:

I'm glad you brought that up. The use of fossil fuels, cheap, abundant energy, has provided a quantum leap upward in the quality of life for all of humanity. Better nutrition, longer life spans, more leisure time to be creative, etc., etc., etc.


In addition, more CO2 appears to be good for the forests:



Who wudda thunk it . . . hmmm, more CO2, more trees . . . naahh, can't be.

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: Yavapai Grammy

@ Look Up - I'm not sure where in the quad cities you live but unfortunately the bee's that swarm around my flower bed every spring/summer don't seem to dwindling in numbers and as far as your dying vegetation statement, I know my garden keeps growing year after year (along with my weeds)!

Checked out the website you listed.....yeah, I'm not buying that theory but then again, that's my choice whether to believe or not believe these types of stories.

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein

TO: John Galt, who proposes that Jesus Christ will save us.

The way that He saved the people of Sodom and Gomorrah?

If I were you, I would not consider it a guarantee, although the "Left Behind" series of fiction books does make interesting reading and implies some serious savings, I am not putting my faith in that, nor in governments either. The problem needs the kind of worldwide solutions that saved the ozone layer and the Earth from a deadly bath of unfiltered sunlight, but that was a tiny problem compared with this one and even that one was politically very difficult.

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein

TO: Steve Chapman, who estimates a world population of 50 billion by the year 2100.

The current world population is about 7 billion. The world population growth rate is about 1%. Using the Rule of 70 for the doubling time, the population will be about 14 billion by 2083 and a quick calculation extrapolates that to 17 billion by 2100. The UN has three scenarios, the wort of which pits population at about 20 billion in this time frame.


See Figure 6.

Not that this growth is inconsequential, but it is not as bad as you have hypothesized.

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: Hobbes2 aka Sam Brunstein

TO: There You Go Again, who denies a human role in climate change.

The sun accounts for only about 14% of the increase in global temperatures and solar activity is declining while global temperatures continue to increase.

Lockwood, M., and C. Froelich, 2007, "Recent oppositely directed trends in solar climate forcings and the global mean surface air temperature," Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series A 464: 1367-1385

Air temperatures have remained relatively stable over the last 17 years? This is proof that Global Warming is not heppening?

Current theory is that air temperatures have temporarily stabilized because the heat is being stored in the oceans.


The false blather belongs to the climate change deniers who place their personal judgements above 97% of the world's climate scientists.

And you place shame for antlon's mentioning the names of Moses and Nixon in the same column? Boy, is that a stretch! The mentions were in context, what's your problem?

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: Beverly Allisone

When I went to school in the mid-50s, I was taught that America was the land of unlimited resources. By the mid-60s, that statement had been retracted, Lady Bird had a 'Keep America Beautiful' campaign going against litter, and the appreciation of the natural world and retaining it became a movement. It seems like a slow train to get everyone on board just to do their part in an ever-expanding global pollution problem.
Where does the problem lie? I see it in our 'higher' standard of living and our attitude of what we deserve no matter what the effects are past our lifetime. The cost for 'instant gratification' and our complacency of kicking the can down the road to the future generations to solve is a disservice to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Earth Day is every day. We need more than dreams, we need action on our part...every day.

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: John Galt

No Tom, it's the Lord Jesus Christ that did save, is saving, and will save a decaying world.

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: Apply Reason

We should think of Earth Day more as a Red day than a Green Day. It began on April 22, 1970, on Lenin's 100th birthday. In 1955 Khrushchev declared it a Russian National Holiday celebrating communism worldwide. Gulible Americans have embraced the fraud. There is no question that most "green activists" are anti-capitalists. We fund the green movements, that have a goal to destroy our way of life- but they have no solution for how we will live when there is no energy or power. We can't live on solar energy, it won't power our world. We should be conservationists, not eviromentalists.

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: Look Up

No one seems to notice the chemical trails that are lingering around the quad city area these past few months. These are not ordinary, brief, contrails that regular commercial aircraft leave behind (appx. 20-30 seconds) and dissipate quickly. No, the chemtrails that are being sprayed on us, are a mixture of aluminum and barium.

Please pay attention and contact your senators, as this has been going on, globally, since about 2001. If people really do care about the environment and the earth, then this should outrage everyone! The end result is that the bees and vegetation are dying off, quickly. Eventually it will have very negative effects on all of us, too!

Please reference:


God Bless!!

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: Blunt Truth

Yeah baby, let's funnel another $10-20B in tax money to "green company" Obama fund raisers. Of course, it will be like flushing it, but hey, it's for the earth.

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: Ron R. Harvey

Hokas, the cost of not having clean air and water is too great.

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: Steve Chapman

By the end of this century there is estimated to be 50 billion people on this planet. I doubt anything will be saved for the next 50 billion.

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: Gottah Goah

We all should put Jesus first! not earth! The creator gave us the beauty of mountains and if we are commanded to obey and respect Him, NOT the other way around! he will help protect us if we do it His way.

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: dutch holland

instead of ''earth day'' - I will concentrate on giving thanks to God everyday.
you should start getting used to it......one day, this earth will pass away and He will create a new earth for HIs people.

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: Tom Steele

As a college student in Toledo, Ohio, I recall the desperate need to clean up Lake Erie, the shallowest of the Great Lakes. Having been ignored forever, it took awareness and "pressure" on polluters and non complying municipalities to get the job done. however, the EPA and other federal agencies have gone overboard and are violating property rights and 10th amendment rights of the states and at great costs to all of us.

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: There You Go Again

Tom, Tom, Tom: To think puny man can significantly affect global temperatures is absurd. The climate does change, and has for millenia. The vast amount of climate change is due to variations in the sun's output of energy and the cooling of the earth itself over the vast amounts of time the earth has existed. Even Reuters news agency is publishing articles saying scientists are 'puzzled' over why the global temperature has gone down or stayed the same over the last 17 years. Look it up and stop your propaganda. Courier: Shame on you for even printing Tom's highly biased, misleading and downright false blather, putting Moses and Nixon in the same editorial.

Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Article comment by: Steven Major

Don't kid yourselves. All native fresh water fish in the US are toxic. They contain mercury and other poisons and should not be consumed. Read any advisory from every state department of fish and game. They generally read like this...
If you are pregnant or under 10 years old: No fish consumption ever.
If you are over 10 years old: No more than 5 ounces of fish meat per person per month. I suggest avoiding all of it, even stocked fish are suspect because of what is fed them in hatcheries before they are placed in lakes, where they then become more toxic because of what they eat in the lake. Other than the joy of killing, or giving a creature a really bad day (catch and release), or the feeling of accomplishment some people get by out smarting a creature that has the brain the size of a pea...there is no good reason for anyone to fish in US waters, ever.
Yes, many of our rivers do look better than they did, but beware of what lies beneath the superficial. Earth Day has evolved to be more a celebration of hope, than accomplishment.

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