Environmentally Speaking

As we ushered in the new year, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality had grand plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, but as we all know, the coronavirus crisis significantly altered our agenda.  Right now, our first priority is working together to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect our public health and safety.  The same “all hands on deck approach” is also required to solve Climate Change, the biggest challenge facing our generation and one that is at the heart of Earth Day and the environmental movement.

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Brian Buzby is the Executive Director of the NC Conservation Network. The 50th anniversary of Earth Day offers a moment to reflect on the progress we’ve made to protect our environment and public health, as well as to look forward to the important work that lies ahead. Here in North Carolina, we’ve generally made steady progress – with a few rocky exceptions – to protect our air, water, and land. 

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I dream in ecosystems, dreams that began when I was young and learning the world through my senses. An early memory, visited still once a week, is feeling warm and happy while fishing for catfish along Lettuce Creek. My sister and brother are with me. The water is stained red by the tannins produced in the surrounding oak hammocks, but I don’t know that yet. The creek was red because that was the way it was. We give up fishing and instead take off our shoes and push our feet deep down into the sandy bottom of the creekbed.

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On this day, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we often miss a narrative that is just as crucial as considering mankind’s negative impacts on the environment. I believe this sentiment first entered my consciousness in high school when my father suggested I read “A Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold. Leopold’s contemplative works hooked me; and when I read his statement, “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot,” I had chosen a side – the side of chickadees, salamanders, trillium, box turtles and oaks.

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The Earth is one of the most majestic and beautiful creations of artwork that exist, from the highest mountain ridges to the lowest depths of the sea. As a child I would go outside daily and appreciate everything it offered me. I loved car rides watching the Pine trees dance in the wind and going to my Granddaddy’s house to watch him plow the pretty rows in the soil. I learned early that anything this pretty and natural must be appreciated and taken care of. As I grew older and began to travel more I saw different parts of the Earth from different views.

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Andrew Hutson is the Executive Director of Audubon NC and Vice President of the National Audubon Society. Few birds are as recognizable along the North Carolina coast as the Osprey. These graceful fish hawks soar above our rivers and sounds in search of fish, wings cocked in preparation for a talon-first dive into the water. But this scene wasn’t always so common. Fifty years ago, during the time of the first Earth Day, Osprey were difficult to find in North Carolina.

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