Commentary Environmental Op-Ed

Earth Day: Take a Breath, Go Hug a Tree

An old tree with sprawling roots and stretching branches stand in a thick forest

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
-Albert Einstein

It’s Earth Day 2022. A lot has and will be said as another Earth Day comes and goes. My advice? Go hug a tree. If that’s too much, then just step outside. You don’t have to live in the middle of the forest to hug a tree or otherwise appreciate the non-synthetic world. A park, a patch of grass, a flowerbed will do. Find a quiet place, away from the cars, noise, and chaos of humanity, if you can. Step away from the pushing and shoving of our competitive, manmade world. Leave your nanny screen inside (finish reading this first).

Once you find your spot, take a breath. Stop and listen to all the sounds that come into your ears in your typical daily rush but not your conscious awareness. Look at the patterns in a leaf, the clouds in the sky, or the glint of the sun over a calm lake.

Take another breath, feel the air enter and exit your lungs. Let the tiny (or grand) corner of nature you’ve found envelope you, just for a moment. Everything and everyone you care for, all your comings and goings, your money and possessions. your beliefs and worldview—all of it—are moot without your last and next breath.

Earth Day: we know what to do

The first Earth Day was in 1970. Back then, rivers burned, cars belched lead sm0ke, and the air in most cities was thick with industrial effluent. We knew then what was going on and had an inkling of what we needed to do about it. We know more now. Despite the fiery rivers, airborne lead, and choking smog of the 60s and 70s, the stakes are even higher now. We know this, even as some still insist on denying it. They are whistling in the dark.

Others talk about it earnestly, honestly, and too often ineffectively. I resemble that remark. I’ve written how Earth Day is not about saving the planet but saving ourselves. I’ve equated Earth Day to New Years’ Eve. How it’s a balancing act between hope and despair. How meaningless it can be, and more. I’ve said it all before. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Don’t get me wrong. Even in the face of daunting odds, procrastination, mistrust between “us” and “them,” and all the foibles of H. Sapiens, there is always hope. There are always people motivated to push the needle forward. Many people work in their corner of the world to make their communities better places to live and work. These people and the sun shining outside, the wind whispering through the trees, the waves lapping at the shore are what give me hope.

So I’ll take a breath, and for just another day, Earth Day, I’ll carry on and do the best I can.


Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

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