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Earth Day Is Our Birthday

21 years into the culture of sustainable, new Bay times

Weather has a long memory. The cold rain pelting as I write takes me back to Earth Day 21 years ago, when New Bay Times Vol. I No. 1 was delivered to Chesapeake Country under just such a soaking.
    We chose Earth Day for our birthday for its significance, not for the weather.
    In New Bay Times, we signified a new era in Chesapeake time. I got to explain what we meant many times before we simplified to Bay Weekly on our seventh birthday in 2000. By then we’d become New Bay Times Weekly. That was a mouthful as well as ambiguous, but the message was true: New Bay times — and new Earth times — were dawning.
    Earth Day turned 23 the day New Bay Times made its appearance.
    By Earth Day 1993, the notion that even Mother Earth’s resources were finite had had a quarter century to sink in. Conservationists had known that truth and its consequences much longer than the rest of us. Changing a nation’s mind, and then its behavior, is heavy lifting. The more you’ve got to change, the longer it takes.
    When we get into cars nowadays, most of us buckle our seatbelts. Adopting that routine has been a big change. But it’s only one click. Simple compared to adapting to new Earth, and new Bay times.
    Earth Day began in festive spirits, with kites and balloons, sweet sentiments and picnics in the grass.
    The organized restoration of the Chesapeake, a decade old when New Bay Times was born, began in the same spirit of optimism. We’d get there before long, most expected.
    Twenty-one years later, we’re catching on, stepping up to new Bay times in ways small and large.
    In 1993, recycling was a bandwagon just getting rolling. Nowadays, 60 percent of households in Anne Arundel County roll out their yellow recycling bins for weekly pickup. The bins are ever larger because each week we’re recycling more. Recycling has become a habit, and we do it even where it’s not at our curbside, as in Calvert County, where citizens dutifully tote their recycling to county convenience centers.
    Household energy improvements have grown from small, smart investments to an energy-wise culture. From little steps like caulking and weather-stripping, many of us have taken big steps to energy-smart solar and geo­thermal systems. We do it for our planet and our Bay, as well as for our pocketbooks.
    Sewage treatment plants have gone through two or three generations of technological improvement since 1993. Even household septic systems are becoming sophisticated water treatment plants for the sake of preserving the Chesapeake.
    As well as our own water, we’re learning to manage nature’s water, like the stormwater that fell on April 15. Rain barrels are so commonplace now that you can choose from an assortment at your local hardware store. We all know what rain gardens are, and many of us install them, filling them with native plants because we’ve learned their resilience and value.
    Slowly but surely, we’re all changing our ways. And if we’re not, since 1993 a generation of kids has been educated to be better environmental stewards than us.
    Have we changed enough, done enough?
    Probably not.
    For Bay restoration, 2025 doesn’t seem time enough.
    Climate change — a distant concept back in 1993 — has caught up with us.
    At Earth Day 2014, now is our time to change the ways we think and act. To start, as it were, buckling our environmental seatbelt.
    Twenty-one years in, Bay Weekly remains committed to illuminating ways we can live up to the responsibilities of the new Bay and new Earth times we’re living.
    You see that commitment in our stories.
    This week, contributor Emily Myron introduces Ten Smart Ways to Help Our Planet and Your Purse. For another, read this week’s Creature Feature and learn how your garden can be a way-station in the monarch butterfly’s survival.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com