Earth Day 2015

April 22, 2015


Posted in: Hot Topics

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who I am
But you know life is for learning

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Joni Mitchell, 1970


I remember the first Earth Day like it was yesterday.

April 22, 1970. I was a junior in college. Spending a day to celebrate the earth was a blessing, a welcomed distraction from our preoccupation with the Vietnam War, the fight for civil rights and the women’s liberation movement. But a serious focus on our vulnerable planet paled in the face of such incredible political upheaval.

Sure, our Woodstock generation wanted to “get back to the garden,” but at the time, we were caught in a web of contradictions, perhaps blinded by the fact that young people were dying and we were outraged. We celebrated the earth while blowing smoke rings from our Camel cigarettes.

In retrospect, we were “…a cog in something turning.” But, we were very far from losing the smog. Yasgur’s Farm would not stop the huge carbon footprint that had already taken hold of our planet on that very first Earth Day. No festival would do that.

Earth Day was intended to be celebration of the planet. We had the Whole Earth Catalog published between 1968 and 1972. We had the Kalso Earth Shoe established in 1970. So we were thinking about the earth, but not in the way we think about it now some 45 years later.

We’ve come a long way. We now know about global warming. We now appreciate the dangers of fossil fuels and second-hand smoke. And most of all, we now have a generation of children who probably have a greater appreciation for the care and protection our planet needs.

That is the hope.

My grandchildren talk about gardening. They know about organic gardening. They know what “free range” means. And they worry about our melting ice caps, about losing our polar bears and precious forests. They know what we humans did, and continue to do, to destroy all of it.

Today’s kids, I think, can appreciate Earth Day in a way we never dreamed of back in 1970. They know so much more about our world, and are sensitive to its vulnerabilities.

I just hope they don’t get lost in other distractions—those that come in the form of smartphones, tablets, laptops and gaming devices. Or in the form of glitzy cruise ships, over-the-top amusements parks and massive concert arenas.

Kids today have a greater sensibility and care for the world we live in. Yet they too can lose touch with what Earth Day really means.

Let’s not let them lose sight of the forest from the trees.

Let’s let them get covered in mud, swim in ponds and explore our surviving trails. And, let’s walk with them—but without our smartphones.

Happy Earth Day everyone.

Gene Beresin

Gene Beresin, Executive Director

Gene Beresin, M.D. is executive director of The MGH Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, and a staff child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also a ...

To learn more about Gene, or to contact him directly, please see Our Team.