OPINION: One day isn’t enough. That’s why #WNCforthePlanet is doing more

//OPINION: One day isn’t enough. That’s why #WNCforthePlanet is doing more

OPINION: One day isn’t enough. That’s why #WNCforthePlanet is doing more

The #WNCforthePlanet Collective Published 7:04 a.m. ET April 1, 2018

Editor’s note: The Asheville Citizen Times is the proud media partner of #WNCforthePlanet – a collective of local environmental organizations, community groups and businesses coming together through workdays, service projects and educational events throughout the month of April. Celebrate environmental stewardship for our planet and the region by getting involved at WNCforthePlanet.org.

April 22 is Earth Day, but what if “every day was earth day?” — you’ve heard this before, maybe more than a few times. We say it to encourage more conscious personal behavior such as recycling, the use of energy-efficient light bulbs and shopping in the bulk aisle to cut down on unnecessary packaging. And, yes, there’s so much we can do as individuals in our homes, in our personal lives to reduce the amount of trash we send to the landfill, our use of water and our carbon footprint.

But what does it look like to take the next step?

We live in a time when it’s become increasingly easy to get our needs met without ever stepping out of our own homes, and when our neighbors are increasingly becoming strangers. Social scientists call this phenomenon atomization: Fewer of us go to church or join bowling leagues. We are more likely to avoid eye contact and less likely to make chitchat when we see our neighbors. In a 2015 essay for the City Observatory, economist Joe Cortright chronicles the decline in how much we trust and spend time with neighbors, our increasing economic segregation and political polarization, the fragmenting of our media landscape and the growing isolation of modern life.

This trend is bad for our civil society and it’s bad for our environment. Many of the challenges that we face as communities and as a planet cannot be addressed solely by shorter showers or reusing our yogurt containers. When a polluter spills chemicals into our groundwater, or someone dumps their garbage upstream, the damage doesn’t respect our property lines. What comes out of the faucet comes from wells with common groundwater or through a network of pipes from shared rivers and watersheds. Our lands, and our relationships with land, are also integrally connected to the wider world — from locally producing farmers to neotropical migratory songbirds. Similarly, carbon dioxide from smokestacks and methane released from leaky pipelines affect our entire planet, and we will all suffer from either increased droughts or
floods, or invasive pest species and disease.

It takes a village to save a planet. The big challenges ahead require all of us to reach across social and racial divisions and come together as a community — to appreciate a great handshake when agreeing to a common purpose and a hug to celebrate a shared accomplishment.

This is the impulse that brings more than 20 local environmental and conservation nonprofits, land trusts, community groups and businesses to come together toward an ambitious project called #WNCforthePlanet. This is how Western North Carolina is celebrating Earth Day, with an entire month of social events and service projects where we can all re-introduce ourselves to our neighbors while helping to clean up our rivers and parks, build and maintain community gardens, restore native forest habitats, and more. We built a website at WNCforthePlanet.org where you can sign up and, yes, we gave it a hashtag because we want you to tell your friends and family and even your neighbors to come out and lend a hand.

The Asheville Citizen-Times has stepped up as a media partner to help spread the word, and you can read about the environmental issues affecting our communities and our planet in the paper and online at citizen-times.com throughout the month of April. #WNCforthePlanet will include Kid’s’ Fest hosted by RiverLink on Saturday, April 21, MountainTrue’s annual Earth Day Vigil with faith groups, and a celebration of our shared accomplishments with an Earth Day party at New Belgium Brewing Company.

By getting our hands dirty we recognize that this soil is our soil. By splashing through water to collect litter or heave a tire out of a stream, we can understand how that stream connects to a river and that river connects to all the waters on this big blue planet. Get involved in #WNCforthePlanet and get reacquainted with your community, the larger movement of more than one billion people people around the globe who celebrate Earth Day, and the seven-and-a-half billion people who share this planet with us.

Co-authored by: Dawn Chávez of Asheville GreenWorks; Anna Zanetti of Friends of the Smokies; Karim Olaechea of MountainTrue and Justin Young of RiverLink, Angela Shepherd of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy