By Andrew Lahr- Centennial Volunteer Ambassador at Glacier National Park
Earth Day 2016; what an exciting and important day to be alive. Earth Day has always meant so much to me. From all of the excitement surrounding recycling, to community events bringing us tree huggers together, to the fascinating Facebook posts of people’s outdoor adventures gracing my news feed, Earth day is a world-wide outburst of love and appreciation for our environment. What other day is our planet, as an entity separate from human resource use, recognized for its tremendous power and greatness? What other day do we earthlings go out en masse to spread the word of conservation, sustainability, and love for all things green? What other day is the voice of our wilderness heard louder?
It is days like this that I think I was born to be a Centennial Volunteer Ambassador. My passion for the outdoors and excitement for sharing my love and knowledge of the natural world have always been my first priority. This position allows me to take that passion and spread it as far and wide as I ever had before. From training and leading tribal community college students to become citizen scientists, to coordinating outreach events in the community, to pulling weeds with boy and girl scout groups, the Centennial Volunteer Ambassador position has given me the platform to share my environmental paradigm with more people than I could have ever imagined. Although it may be overly hopeful to think that I have left people with just as much passion and excitement as myself, I do think it is reasonable to assume that I left them thinking about the planet and the environment in a different way.
I think this is the very essence of Earth Day and even the National Park Service if we are willing to stretch your imagination a little. Follow me here. Yes, Earth Day is a day for us hippies to come together and celebrate our shared love for the Earth and its critters and flowers and lovely aesthetic. Yes, Earth Day is a day for champion conservationists to spread the good news of sustainable living and to tell others where they have gone wrong and how to get on the path of environmental friendliness. But Earth Day does not end there. I think the most valuable part of celebrating Earth Day is its role as a conversation starter.
In 2016, Earth Day is celebrated world wide. It is awesome to think about how far we have come since the green movement and people like Rachel Carson started their journey almost 50 years ago. Now we live in an era where the message of Earth Day is heard in almost every corner of the earth. With social media and the internet individual stories, lessons, and passions are spread across the globe in seconds. Earth Day is finally a holiday, and it is a holiday, for ALL to celebrate. And it is that universality that starts the conversation. Now the excitement for nature is projected on a planetary scale, and the awesomeness of being a naturalist and an earth lover can be felt and seen by everyone. On days like this those who may not have joined the bandwagon see that its not so bad to think outside of a human-centric paradigm. They see that choosing to be environmentally conscious doesn’t mean sacrificing their happiness, rather that it means a compromise and understanding between us and our resources. They are given the chance to throw on our green tinted glasses and get a glimpse at the natural world from a different angle.
This is exactly what the National Parks provide people. Day to day, the average American is surrounded by the drab colors and noxious smells of concrete and asphalt, the almost geometric arrangement of trees and gardens, a world devoid of wilderness. The National Parks provide an escape from this, a door to what America, Earth, looks like when these harsh constructs aren’t there. It is this glimpse into a world of wilderness, of purity, that gives people the chance to see through those green lenses and perhaps change their minds or at least the way they see and think about the world outside of the parks.
I am grateful to be a live on this momentous Earth Day 2016. I am grateful to be Glacier National Park’s Centennial Volunteer Ambassador. I am grateful for the amazing planet we get to call home. And I am grateful, that at least for me, Earth Day is everyday.