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Environmentalist? or Environmental Steward? Celebrating Earth Day 2013

After a short hiatus from blogging (about six weeks), I have emerged from my commitments and deadlines to make a post on Earth Day – April 22, 2013. Celebrating Earth Day is controversial for some in the U.S. Much of this is tied to political views or challenges to data that show relationships to industrialization and its negative impacts on the environment. Here’s my question of the day: should being a good steward of Mother Earth be tied to politics?

Figure 1: Portraits of Global Aerosols (Image credit: William Putman, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

Figure 1: Portraits of Global Aerosols (Image credit: William Putman, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

Figure 1 shows a portrait of global aerosols that was produced by a GEOS-5 simulation at a 10-kilometer resolution. Dust (red) is lifted from the surface, sea salt (blue) swirls inside cyclones, smoke (green) rises from fires, and sulfate particles (white) stream from volcanoes and fossil fuel emissions.

Earth Day has been celebrated in the U.S. and other countries since 1970 on April 22nd. Most rational thinking persons, regardless of politics, would agree that managing limited natural resources and waste products make good business sense and promotes sustainability. Yet, being classified as an environmentalist is considered a dirty word by some.

Marc Lallanilla [Ref 1], a writer for www.LiveScience.com, shares information on six political leaders who were strong supporters of the environment. I am choosing to highlight two of them here:

Richard Nixon, a Republican and former U.S. president, is perhaps better known for the Watergate scandal and his subsequent resignation rather than face impeachment charges. However, before his resignation, Nixon’s presidency ushered in landmark legislation for protecting the environment including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Safe Drinking Water Act, (SDWA), major amendments to the Clean Air Act (CAA) in 1970, to name a few.  However, as I have often shared with others, it was under his administration that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established as a cabinet-level federal department.

While some members of his own party would later call Nixon an idiot for establishing the EPA, others remember times during the last 50 years where rivers caught on fire from the pollution and toxic materials that were dumped from manufacturing operations. Interestingly, Nixon died on Earth Day, April 22, 1994, at the age of 81.

Barry Goldwater, another prominent Republican of his day, and a five-term senator from the State of Arizona (where I live), was also a photographer and great outdoors person. He captured over 15,000 photos of western landscapes and Native American tribes. Goldwater was also a strong supporter of the environment. He explained his position in 1969:

“I feel very definitely that the [Nixon] administration is absolutely correct in cracking down on companies and corporations and municipalities that continue to pollute the nation’s air and water. While I am a great believer in the free competitive enterprise system and all that it entails, I am an even stronger believer in the right of our people to live in a clean and pollution-free environment. To this end, it is my belief that when pollution is found, it should be halted at the source, even if this requires stringent government action against important segments of our national economy.”
[Ref 2, 3]:

Lallanilla also points out the work that Margaret Thatcher, Theodore Roosevelt, William Ruckelhaus (first EPA administrator), and former New York Representative (Republican) Sherwood Boehlert. My personal and professional experiences tell me that one does not need to be a Democrat or a member of any political party to be a good steward of the environment. However difficult it may be for some, ignoring the negative consequences of industrialization by emerging and developed countries is a recipe for disaster.

It doesn’t take legislation for an individual to become a good environmental steward. You also don’t need to be affiliated with any political party.  There’s a popular saying about our planet and humankind’s negative effects on its ecology: “We treat this world of ours as though we have a spare in the trunk.”

Small steps can go along way towards conserving natural resources and saving you money. Simple examples include purchasing a travel mug or container to carry your coffee or water in, rather than using plastic or styrofoam cups every day. Recycling your cell phone, computers, and other electronic items and white goods instead of disposing of them into a landfill is another good practice that we all should engage in. Repairing leaking faucets and other plumbing around your home are also good practices. You’ll save as much as 200 gallons of water each day, and your utility bill will be lower.

Last but not least, turn off the lights when you leave the room! My mother and father used to say that a lot, and they didn’t know anything about Earth Day or being green.

What are you doing to celebrate Earth Day??


1. “6 Surprising Environmentalists”, Marc Lallanilla, Assistant Editor, LiveScience.com

2. Barry Goldwater, The Conscience of a Majority (1969) in Brian Allen Drake, “The Skeptical Environmentalist: Senator Barry Goldwater and the Environmental Management State”, Environmental History, (2010) 15#4 pp 587–611, p. 589,

3. Wikipedia, www.wikipedia.org


About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.


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