Rachel Carson’s 1962 book "Silent Spring" helped jump-start the modern day environmental movement. Carson passed away before the inaugural Earth Day in 1970, but as Earth Day approaches on April 22, it’s important to remember that we are part of a movement to safeguard our planet, its wildlife and precious waters.
Here in the Klamath-Siskiyou, over a very short period, humans utterly transformed the landscape. As recently as the 1950s, we clear-cut vital old growth forests and replanted them with monoculture tree farms, while spraying the toxic herbicides Carson eventually warned against across wide swaths of industrial timberland.
In the 1970s we were spewing so much pollution into our local atmosphere that Medford had some of the worst air quality in Pacific Northwest. The dirty air would get trapped in the valley floor and locals were breathing dangerous levels of particulate from smokestacks, old cars and open burning.
We dammed the mightiest of our rivers and raised the temperatures of our streams to levels unhealthy for aquatic life. Dangerous chemicals began seeping out in smokestacks and pipes from old mines and industrial sites. It was said a hundred years ago that you could walk across our region’s rivers on the backs of salmon. We diminished these once bountiful salmon runs to a mere fraction of their original glory.
We’ve come a long way since that first Earth Day more than 40 years ago. Today, we can see drastic improvements. We have improved air quality. We burn less trash, have cleaner running cars and use better industrial practices. We are restoring our rivers, and even removing some of the dams to recover our iconic salmon runs. At times, we even manage our public forests with wildlife and water not just profits in mind.
Given recent advancements, right now, we stand on the precipice. Today’s politicians are prepared to hand over our water supplies, our public lands, and our planet’s climate to corporations more concerned with profit than with what’s in the public’s best interest.
Looking at the progress we have made, it is more important than ever to understand the threats we face. We are entering an era that presents the biggest threat to our natural world in more than a generation. The current administration and the corporations that have the ear of those in power want to remove safeguards that protect our environment, our children and our very life support system.
One way you can really stand up for the Earth is to join us for the March for Climate, Jobs, and Justice. KS Wild is a proud co-sponsor of one the largest events of its kind in our region’s history — and part of a national day of solidarity in support of our planet. The march is from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 29, at Pear Blossom Park in Medford (312 E 4th St., Medford), and will feature speakers, music and information on how to get more involved.
If marching is not your cup of tea, there are several opportunities to get involved locally.
The Rogue Valley Earth Day at Science Works is a family-friendly event. This year it’s from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m Earth Day, Saturday, April 22. There will be informative booths, delicious local food and kid-friendly activities.
KS Wild is also hosting "Our Children’s Trust: Litigation to Save the Future" from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 13. This is a panel discussion with Mary Wood and youth climate activists currently litigating to force action on climate.
If you simply want to learn more about the area, join one of KS Wild’s hikes this month to the Rogue River or Table Rocks. Visit www.kswild.org for more info.
Earth Day is the celebration of a movement. Join the movement.
The final column in the Summer Outdoor Guide will run in three weeks.
— Joseph Vaile is executive director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild, 541-488-5789, www.kswild.org). His Wild Side column appears every three weeks.