Celebrations of Earth Day -- today is the 42nd annual observance -- popularized the theme, "think global, act local." Today that premise is as apt as ever.
The bad news on Earth Day is, the more we think we have solved our major environmental issues, the greater they have become. The good news is, the digital age and the satellite and health technologies that have grown with it have empowered us to know, study and work to mitigate these greater challenges.
It has also provided linkage, according to earthday.org, to more than 22,000 partner groups working for environmental protection in 192 nations. These partnerships enable people everywhere to build coalitions aimed at strengthening efforts to protect our global environment from unsustainable, and often unregulated, commercial exploitation.
Given the enormous scale of increasingly rapid exploitation and depletion of vital natural resources triggered by the world's rapidly expanding population and interconnected economies, the assault on resources has become both insatiable and unsustainable. At risk are forests, fresh water, ocean fisheries, earth minerals, energy sources and healthy air.
Though the United States and some other industrially advanced nations recognize and talk about the larger global threats to environmental sustainability, even the most educated industrial nations fail to address larger international environmental threats.
Japan, for example, is perfectly willing to pursue to extinction the blue-fin tuna, the oceans' mega-predator, for its sushi traditions, along with certain species of whales. Other Asian nations arm fleets of international fishing boats with advanced sonars and 40-mile-long, ungodly wide drift-nets to strip mine the seas, trapping -- and killing -- every aquatic species that can't slip through a 4-inch square opening. Preferred wild-caught fish, among other species, now teeter on extinction.
The United States isn't a nation to preach.
Americans now seem blindly willing to surrender the sustainability of our nation's precious and rapidly diminishing aquifers -- the storehouse of drinkable water for people and agricultural irrigation in many parts of the country -- to natural gas companies' fracking operations. These use a mix of unlisted and largely unregulated toxic chemicals that end up in aquifers and up to millions of gallons of fresh water for a single well to fracture shale-rock formations to squeeze out the last drop of natural gas, never mind the environmental consequences for our children.
Though President Richard Nixon created the nation's Environmental Protection Agency, the current crop of Republicans and their corporate funders have made environmental protection a totem enemy. They deny the reality and consequences of man-made global warming and treaties to restrain it, even as Pentagon and CIA strategic threat analyses confirm the broad dangers of looming wars over resources and economic immigration spurred by global warming and resource depletion.
The United States and other coal-producing nations are helping supply China's industrial behemoth, which requires opening a new coal-fired electric plant every week and the global plunder of forests and minerals. Never mind that America's manufacturing jobs are as threatened by China's growth as is our air, which carries China's vast pollution on the wind to America's western states.
Other exporting nations, as well, funnel gigantic portions of their natural resources to energy-intensive Asian trading partners, where there are fewer environmental safeguards. Deforestation of the Amazon, the world's most important carbon-sink, and comparable clear-cutting of the great equatorial forests of Africa and the temperate rain forests of Asia, contribute mightily to the pillage of resources.
As industrialization and the world's rising middle class grows, so does the shift of agricultural production to meat-oriented diets and global meat markets. That unsustainable trend is especially harmful to the poor countries that shift from sustainable domestic agriculture to meat exports, leaving their poor malnourished. Grains produce far more nutrition per unit of energy-input than meat, which is the world's most resource-and-carbon-intensive agricultural product.
Yet with rising knowledge of such pernicious and insidious threats to our global environment, and to individual personal health, Americans and peoples of other nations are increasingly better able to identify and respond to a broader range of our environmental problems.
At a personal level, we can practice more sustainable lifestyles by buying fuel-efficient cars, walking and bicycling more, weatherizing homes, recycling and composting, growing or buying sustainable produce, meat and eggs free of chemicals and antibiotics, and using indigenous plants and fewer lawn chemicals. At the political level, we can urge adoption of policies and laws geared to environmental sustainability, and vote for political leaders who respect these principles.
Environmental integrity isn't rocket science. It's conservation and wise stewardship at all levels, and respect for what natural resources we leave our children. It's Earth Day, every day.