Can celebrating Earth Day save us from ourselves?

Oh, I remember my first real acquaintance with Earth Day (Monday, April 22 this year). I don’t remember the year exactly, but I believe it was one of those first Earth Days in the early 1970s when I was hired to play guitar at a UC Davis’ Earth Day celebration.

So here we are — nearly 50 years later and some people still argue mankind is too puny and insignificant to have any impact on our environment at all.

Hey, they say, climate change is just a myth the Chinese are trying to spread to take unfair advantage of us. It’s totally fake news, right? It’s curious to note how climate change has become a political matter rather than a scientific one. Don’t get me wrong — I do not intend to start a fight over this issue, for my perspective is nonpartisan.

Here’s what I see: Mankind is doing a pretty good job of undoing life on our planet.

We are in the midst of what’s been called the Sixth Great Extinction (in the so called Anthropocene Age, the age of humans). The five previous extinctions that killed off as many as 90 percent of all species on Earth were caused by natural events such as the asteroid strike that ended the reign of the dinosaurs.

Sadly, now we’re doing it to ourselves. Truth be told, we’ve devastated nearly one-fourth of all species living on our world. Currently one third of vertebrates are threatened — 41 percent of amphibians and 17 percent of birds as are many species of insects, including some of the greatest wonders of my youth — crickets, grasshoppers, katydids and butterflies that are nearly gone. I felt like crying when I learned the beautiful monarch butterfly that covered the trees in Pacific Grove every year when I was a kid is on the verge of extinction. And let’s not forget or be confused — extinction is forever. What will we do when there are no insects left to pollinate our food — look to Monsanto?

My God, people — animal species that may go extinct this year, on our watch in 2019, include leopards, salamanders, dolphins, orangutans, gorillas, devil rays, turtles, dragonflies, rhinoceros, tigers and elephants.

I don’t know about you, but my species being responsible for this kind of death and destruction breaks my heart. Of course, some boneheaded moron out there is sure to say, ‘Well, if they can’t figure out how to survive, they deserve to die.’ Oh, my.

What about the rainforests? Each tree can store as much as 1.5 tons of carbon. When a tree is burned, that carbon soars into the atmosphere. Rain forests once covered 17 percent of the planet. That’s down to 6 percent now, and some predict the rest will be destroyed by the middle of the century. The trees in the rain forest also release the oxygen we need to breathe. As we destroy the rain forest, it’s estimated that we’re also losing 137 plant, insect and animal species that live there every single day. Every single day.

One need only take a look at the history of our planet, and it’s pretty clear there’s no guarantee a species will live forever. Many have come and gone before, but we may the very first dumb enough, selfish enough and arrogant enough to create our own extinction and take everything else down with us as we go.

Let’s face it, we’re pretty poor stewards of God’s creation and all the miraculous wonders He’s given us. I hope we can find a way to do better before it’s too late. We really ought to leave a beautiful, livable planet to our future generations.

Happy Earth Day, everybody.