Gardens of the Cross Timbers: Peace, justice and care of the Earth

Becky Emerson Carlberg
Contributing writer
Turtles on a log at Martin Park

The 51st Earth Day is Thursday, April 22. Have you made plans to do something good for the earth? Homo sapiens haven’t exactly been kind to earth and its other inhabitants. Humans have this strange idea that anything can be done to the earth and all her other children (the plants, trees and wildlife) and she will simply bounce back as usual. Do we really know the sacrifices made at the expense of nature to satisfy our appetite for everything we want right now?

Spoiler alert: People have become quite adept at shirking responsibility, from non-recyclable and uncontrolled buying habits, creating endless mountains of trash and plastics on land and in the ocean, and unrestrained water and fuel consumption. Developers continue to clear away native habitats and wildlife to build houses and roads. Little restoration is ever attempted. Is the root laziness, thoughtlessness, greed or money? Do we support deforestation for cheap avocadoes, palm oil and bananas? The generations of animals and plants that have lived in these areas for centuries, are they simply collateral damage, not worth our time or effort?

Animal species populations declined 60% worldwide between 1970 and 2014 because of habitat loss and destruction of forests to avocado, sugar, coffee, banana and palm plantation as well as industrial meat production and soybean cultivation. Let’s not forget pollution, erosion and the climate tanking. The trafficking of wild plants and animals for pets, medicines, and luxury food has increased at an alarming rate. Many species at local levels have been driven to extinction but few studies have even been done to document the losses. Elizabeth Albert on the Feb 2021 site wrote about the terrible signs of species decline in the wildlife trade. Eight billion people crowded on the most beautiful, life-giving planet in our solar system and look at how we treat it.

In 1962, Rachael Carson said “In nature, nothing exists alone.” Birds and insects are migrating earlier and changing their routes. Plants are blooming sooner. Ecosystem cycles are becoming un-synchronized. Greenland’s ice sheet is rapidly melting; billions of tons of ice to liquid each year. The ice covering holds 8% of the earth’s fresh water. Mean ocean levels are rising. Isotopic fingerprints identify the elevating levels of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, not natural events. Billions of people do make an impact to the oceans, the land and the atmosphere.

Can Creek

Two men from different walks of life were founders of Earth Day. One has largely been ignored. Called the father of Earth Day, former Wisconsin Senator and governor Gaylord Nelson was passionate about nature and the environment. The son of a registered nurse and country doctor, Nelson received his law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison, served in the army for four years during World War II and later went into politics. He was highly visible, operated from an active political platform and held the first “Environmental Teach-in” on April 22, timed during university spring break to expand student involvement.

John McConnell’s name has been omitted from most Earth Day articles. McConnell was more low-key and the underdog. He wanted to foster unity and nurture appreciation for the earth. The entrepreneur, newspaper publisher and peace activist first coined the term “Earth Day” used March 21, 1970, to coincide with the spring equinox. The son of a Pentecostal evangelist, his early visions of pacifism and stewardship of God’s creation inspired McConnell. At the UNESCO Conference on the Environment in 1969, McConnell proposed a global holiday “Earth Day” to become a yearly observance to remind each person they are environmental stewards and each has a responsibility to preserve Earth’s resources.

McConnell designed the first “Earth Flag,” our vibrant planet on a dark background still flown today. He always carried with him his Earth Day proclamation with 36 signatures including Buzz Aldrin, John Denver, Buckminster Fuller and Mikhial Gorbachev. McConnell promoted peace, justice and care of the earth.

Two visionaries with goals to bring the people of earth together to preserve the sanctity of their planet. In 1970-1971 Democrats and Republicans joined together to pass the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and established the Environmental Protection Agency.

The theme for the 2021 Earth Day is “Restore Our Earth.” The group states “As the world returns to normal, we can’t go back to business-as-usual.” Three days of climate action run from April 20 to April 22. The global youth climate summit is on April 20 with panels, discussions and special messages. On April 21, Education International is leading a multi-lingual virtual summit focusing on the role educators play. On Earth Day, the is hosting a live digital event.

Backyard Visitor

Want to restore the earth? It’s up to you. Help the pollinators by employing innovative mowing patterns, tell Oklahoma educators to bring climate into the school classroom curriculum, introduce your children to nature, preserve natural areas around your towns and cities, designate native zones in your yard, put into action regenerative agriculture emphasizing soil health and water management, carry reusable grocery sacks, drink your water from reusable bottles and buy products in glass or paper. Pick up litter wherever you see it. Some must have the most pristine car interiors, since everything else is jettisoned out their car windows. Keep on hand (or hands) plastic gloves for unexpected rubbish. Around here, it’s everywhere. Locate the aluminum and metal recyclers in the area.

“To leave the world better than you found it, sometimes you have to pick up other people’s trash.”—Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Charity begins at home. One can’t take good care of their family if they don’t take good care of the earth.

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” —Theodore Roosevelt–conservationist, naturalist and 26th president of the United States.

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at