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David Sovka: A few things you can do for your favourite planet on its special day

In honour of Earth Day, plant a flower or a shrub. The government of Canada now allows you to plant up to five of these for personal use
Biking is good for you and good for the planet and it’s fun, especially when you think about the crabby, entitled people perpetually upset about cycle lane bollards, writes David Sovka. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Of all the planets in our solar system, probably my favourite — top three for sure — is Earth.

I have lived on the little blue planet for pretty much my entire life, so I know it well, including all the good parking spots and which day to take the garbage out.

For most of my life, planet Earth has been a nice place to live: dependably hot summers and cold winters; regular cycles of rainfall and drought; expected seasons for flooding and tornadoes with golf ball-sized hail; and, for variety, a few random earthquakes, volcanoes, and after-school TV specials about teenage pregnancy.

As I say, a nice place to live. Oh sure, Earth has problems.

When I was a kid, the big problem we talked about was litter. Not long after that, the talk got more serious: acid rain and air pollution from unregulated industry and leaded gasoline in cars; pesticides and herbicides contaminating groundwater and killing bees.

All that scary stuff piqued interest in the natural world, driving subscriptions to National Geographic magazine and the Farmer’s Almanac. Founded in 1792, the Almanac states: “…we believe we are stewards of nature, plants and our lands…”

This kind of sentiment seems important to spell out, expressing what most of us know from a lifetime of experience: People are really stupid and cannot be trusted to do what is clearly in our own long-term interest.

What I mean is, we need a little reminding to care for the natural world, to stop fouling our own nest, and to generally pull up our shorts viz. climate-change denial and complaining about wind farms.

Which brings us to Earth Day 2024, and its invitation to look around at our green trees, and red roses, too.

Earth Day was originally championed by the prominent environmentalist and U.S. senator Gaylord Nelson, who sought to commemorate the conservation movement while at the same time drawing attention away from his first name.

The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970, and tens of millions of people participated. That’s enough to spur serious political action.

U.S. President Richard Milhouse Nixon — yes, THAT President Richard Milhouse Nixon — created the Environmental Protection Agency, followed by some pro-environment laws including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

Monday is the 54th Earth Day, so while we still have this little blue world, here are a few ways you can participate:

Ride a bike

Sure, billionaires are launching space rockets and jetting off to international folk-rock concerts at record pace, but here’s your chance to offset 0.000000001% of their carbon footprint by inconveniencing your bum. I’m kidding! Biking is good for you and good for the planet and it’s fun, especially when you think about the crabby, entitled people perpetually upset about cycle lane bollards. I cycle every day, and I laugh about this every day.

Get produce from a local farmer’s market

OK, yes, this means eating a lot of Vancouver Island kale from September to May, but you’ll also be helping local businesses run by local people. We buy amazing meat from a Brentwood Bay butcher with helpful labels: “This brisket is Carl, a hormone-free steer from 12 km north.” We also subscribe to Saanich Organics, getting a box of yummy fruit and veggies delivered to our front door every week and I’m not just saying this because my wife is making me.

Plant something

Trees not only provide shade on hot days, they also clean the air and provide us with oxygen, which scientists say we breathe and also need to successfully light cigarettes. Of course, you may not have a yard in which to plant a tree, so feel free to plant a tree in other people’s yards when they are not looking. Alternatively, plant a flower or a shrub. The government of Canada now allows you to plant up to five of these for personal use.

Harvest the rain

If you have a house and it has a roof, you have yourself a natural way to collect water, which you probably know costs more than fancy Champagne during the summer months. Setting up a rain barrel can be a hassle, but it soon pays for itself, and it is extremely satisfying to thumb your nose at paying crazy municipal water rates. An easy and cost-effective alternative is to water your lawn with fancy Champagne urine during the summer months.

Pick up litter

I am the first to admit that bending over no longer holds the thrills it once did. But back pain aside, taking a moment to pick up litter in the neighbourhood, along roadways and at the park is the easiest way to spruce up the place and do the job that our municipal taxes are supposed to do but won’t no matter how many phone calls you make to Saanich city hall. It’s easy, and even more fun in a group, especially if you have experience singing in harmony on a chain gang.

When I was young, Earth’s problems mostly happened where the people were. More people usually meant more problems. Not existential for us as a species, but bad for plenty of individuals who were getting cancer or some such catastrophe. But planet Earth kept ticking along.

Things are different today. Oh, Earth still ticks along, but let me say there are ticks and there are clunks and then there is the way my joints sound when I get out of bed. What I mean is, while Earth Day isn’t going to fix all our problems, it’s good to put a finger on the calendar, and say: Starting now I’m making this little blue planet a little bit better.

I see trees of green, red roses, too

I see them bloom for me and you

And I think to myself:

What a wonderful world.