Happy Earth Day, everyone.
To tell the unvarnished truth, as I sometimes like to do, I have absolutely no idea what Earth Day is. I heard someone mention it on the wireless this morning, but I was not concentrating. If I had to guess, I should say it's a day for remembering that the planet must be saved. And it absolutely must. The problem, it seems to me, is that no one has any idea how. (Answers on a postcard.)
My fear is that Earth Day might be an excuse for all the most extreme sides of the argument to come out and dance the pasa doble. In one corner, we have the mad flat-earthers, who insist that climate change is unproven (it's just a cycle, see) and that business must have its sway and we must all drill, baby, drill. In the other corner, we have the smug greens, who want you all to go and live in yurts, and intimate that if you ever set foot on one more aeroplane you will be personally responsible for the next cyclone in Bangladesh. Meanwhile, China, who answers to no man (nor woman neither) is building a coal-fired power station every week, the ice caps are melting, the polar bears have nowhere to go, and the people of the South Pacific islands will very soon have to live on rafts. At this point, your dutiful installation of low energy lightbulbs might seem very slightly irrelevant. It's all too crazy and unstoppable, and everyone shouting at each other will not stop people wanting to drive cars, and we are all doomed.
And yet, and yet. Astonishing, unthinkable things do happen. Entrenched attitudes do change. Regard human history: slavery did end, women did get the vote, a man did step onto the very surface of the moon. So maybe you and I, with a little recycling and buying local and turning off the lights, can make a difference. Perhaps it's not such a puny plan after all.
My own, personal Earth Day is going to consist of contemplating the absolute wonders of the world. Outside my window, as if in celebration, a vivid sun is shining out of a high blue sky. The first of the cherry blossom is out. The fat, sticky buds of the horse chestnut have just unfurled into tiny new leaves of stinging green. In the south meadow, newborn lambs are actually skipping, just as lambs are supposed to do. The oystercatchers have come in from the coast, and are celebrating their mating season by singing raucously all night long. Down by the burn, the ducks are building their nest in their usual secret location. I watch each day for the swallows to come back all the way from Africa to my garden shed.
Slip the lens a little, and contemplate the wider view. The truly astonishing thing about those photographs of earth taken from space is not just the timeless beauty of the blue planet, but that it is the only blue planet to be seen in the known universe. Of all the lumps of rock out there that we have discovered, it is the single one that has the exact conditions required for life. A few miles closer to the sun, a little less carbon dioxide and phtt - solar storms and arid rock; no Mozart, no Shakespeare, no nothing. There are, of course, many other universes that the Hubble telescope cannot see, that may be beyond anything in our imagination; the physicists are talking of a possible eleven dimensions and that parallell universes are not science fiction but science fact. But in our little corner of the cosmos, we are the only ones that got lucky, which is perfectly extraordinary in itself.
So just for one day I am going to, as the great Johnny Mercer once wrote, accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and not even think of messing with Mr Inbetween. It's Earth Day, and Earth is a bloody miracle. I'm going to listen to Mr Louis Armstrong, old Satchelmouth himself, because just sometimes, despite all the sorrows that flesh is heir to, it is worth remembering that it is a wonderful world.
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