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Earth Day Essays: Let's 'fight to save our home'

Cloquet sophomores ponder the environment and the future

 

May 1, 2020

Sophomores in Cloquet high school teacher Jason Richardson’s English class were asked to write short essays recently with Earth Day as a theme. We published two last week. Here are more of our favorites.

Teamwork

Right now, the earth is fragile. It’s littered with widening cracks and deep fissures, not just of the natural variety, but of the societal variety as well. Mankind is like a glass knee on the verge of giving out. We’re faced with so many looming problems, climate change being one, and yet our biggest issue is finding common ground. As a result of the global population’s deeply fractured state, and of our disrespect for our home, the living planet is suffering. In order to give our planet an opportunity to heal, we need to find a solution and work together to carry it out. How are we supposed to keep the lives of future generations intact if the world has already been shattered into billions and billions of little pieces? How can the world heal completely if its residents are not completely unified against climate change and pollution? If the world wakes up one day in 50 or 60 years surrounded by nothing broken glass and melted ice, what then? We need to put aside our differences and work together to traverse the cracks and fissures that exist between us, before it’s too late.

I would like to see the town of Cloquet ‒ along with Minnesota, the United States, and the rest of Earth’s citizens ‒ working together in the interest of every living creature and of future generations. The lakes, state parks, and other natural beauties that are an integral and revered part of the state we call home are in danger. I have always had faith that the majority of Minnesotans, when needed, would rise to the occasion and fight to save our home; I still do. I love Minnesota, and I cannot stand the thought that the damages caused by pollution and climate change could one day become irreparable.

As Adlai Stevenson once said during his last address before the United Nations, “We travel together, passengers on a little space ship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil, all committed for our safety to its security and peace, preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and I will say the love we give our fragile craft.” After all the love and care our earth has shown us, and after all the disrespect mankind has shown for the living planet’s natural resources, we owe our home a little respect. I hope that Cloquet, along with the rest of Earth’s citizens, will work together to restore our planet’s natural beauty.

~ Olivia Macaulay

The Light

I believe the biggest change can come from the smallest of actions, especially when it comes to the environment.

Some friends and I have been boycotting foam plates at school, and we have been encouraging others to do so as well. Small changes like this create a domino effect. If fewer people use foam plates, the less the school has to order, then the company makes fewer plates, and finally less foam goes to landfills.

Little decisions like these are what I want to see more of. Knowing what you buy can be recycled or composted and knowing a place where you can buy bulk are two extraordinary strategies. Just being mindful of what you are doing can have amazing results.

As of right now I think completely avoiding plastic is something that is unachievable. It all goes back to doing the most you can do. Knowing what you buy and its impact on the environment is the first step, then minimizing the negatives is the next. Reducing plastic use around the world is also something I want to see, but the only thing someone can do is control themselves.

I really care about the environment, but in order to save it, I believe everyone needs to come together and fight for it. With still so much of the world’s population not believing in climate change that would be difficult.

With all that said I still have hope. Signs of the earth healing are already showing during quarantine, which only proves there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

~ Jack Liang

A Different Perspective

It is no doubt this stay-at-home order is not easy, for anyone. Our everyday lives have done a complete 360 and we have been forced to change almost everything. Our usual wake up and go to school has now become wake up and go to wherever you get your schoolwork done, at home. Hanging out with friends is now texting and endless FaceTime calls. Jobs are being lost and people are going broke. Loved ones are passing away and family members are unable to have that one last moment together with them. The world has changed and most view this change as negative. It’s true, there are negatives to this whole experience, but have you stopped to look around for a moment? Have you thought about the fact that there are more people exercising and practicing healthy habits than ever before? Or that pollution levels are down? Have you thought about the earth and how it’s doing? We’re all so quick to point out the negatives, but coronavirus has actually resulted in many positives for planet Earth.

The fight to keep Earth clean and healthy has been going on for what seems like forever. “Reduce, reuse, recycle!” We hear that almost on a daily basis. It’s no secret that our planet is polluted. It’s trashed and taken for granted. People litter like it’s no big deal; they throw garbage onto the ground like it’s an everyday thing. It’s time we start to realize we have only one Earth!

Just like our everyday lives, Earth has changed too. With people being forced to stay at home, the environment has undergone some positive changes. Cities are recording the cleanest air they’ve seen in years. Animals, such as sea turtles, are reproducing like crazy. Bodies of water are becoming clear, creating a healthier environment for sea life. People in our own community are going out and picking up trash, on the daily. We might not be benefiting from this but one thing is for sure, our planet certainly is.

This global shutdown is giving us a glimpse at what Earth really could look like, if we’d just take care of it. It’s showing us that it’s possible to re-create a society that is healthier and cleaner. Maybe this is what the earth needed. So instead of looking at this whole thing negatively, stop and look around for a second. Don’t think about what it’s doing to your life, think about what it’s doing for the place we get to call home. Look at the beauty of the world that’s finally being uncovered. Stop for a moment and look at it from a different perspective.

~ Maddie Young

Seeds of Love

Imagine a society where everyone stopped to smell the roses and reconnect with the wonder surrounding them. How many of society’s problems would improve? Might stress levels decrease as love of life increased, and relationships progress along with the health of the planet? I believe the most important change to make as a local, national, and global community is simply to cultivate a deep, personal appreciation of nature in the heart of every human being. We could pull up the weeds of indifference and ignorance by planting seeds of love. As our admiration of nature flourished, so too would our desire to preserve and protect it.

In our current culture, we face many problems, nearly all of them caused by humans: deforestation, large-scale extinctions, climate change, pollution, and countless others. Yet our daily lives remain largely unchanged in the midst of this crisis. It would take only a quick glance out the back window to notice the plastic bags flopping like entangled fish in the tree branches or the little birds arriving a week earlier than normal. Greater change begins the moment we look beyond ourselves and give credit to nature, recognizing that we are only one piece in the beautiful puzzle of life. However, we must simultaneously realize that issues exist which threaten to undermine this connectedness. Then, with humility and admiration, we could begin to turn our passion into action, becoming educators, movement-makers, and guardians. The possibilities are endless. Appreciation of nature is the spark that could set off a campaign for our earth that spreads around the globe.

Nature has been a source of peace, creativity, and inspiration to humanity for thousands of years. Unlimited potential and wonder wait to be discovered in each leaf and seed. I believe that we can become a people of gratitude and transformation; our generation has an opportunity like never before to turn the tide for the better. So let’s step outside and look at the great vast sky, feel the earth under our feet, and dare to dream as we ask ourselves the question that celebrates possibility: What if?

~Harmony Tracy

We’re all in this together

With my new life in isolation, the coronavirus has made me take into account what matters most. Family, health, and education top my list; yet, I realize the stability of our planet is just as important. I've seen the headlines that directly link this new slowed-down lifestyle with positive changes to the environment. What better day than Earth Day to re-examine how we could be treating our beautiful planet.

Our break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life has given the earth a much-needed rest from air pollution. There are many reasons for this: fewer businesses, airplanes, and vehicles are putting emissions into the air, and this has resulted in a significant difference in air quality, water quality, and even wildlife. Although the economy cannot stay at a halt indefinitely, the lessons we’re learning while it is should give us the determination to implement some changes in our laws and lifestyles for the betterment of the earth and all of us who share it.

We as Minnesotans are proud of our state’s natural beauty, from our pristine 10,000 lakes, which is prominently engraved on our license plates, to our forests and state parks, where we enjoy miles of fresh air and undisturbed nature. To ensure our waters and air stay clean, we should fight to protect them by supporting Governor Tim Walz’s plan to adopt an emissions law for cars and trucks. We can also continue fighting to ban mining in the BWCA to guarantee this water wilderness will not become more endangered.

However, we shouldn't just wait for laws to be passed. I believe everyone can make a difference with little effort right where they are. All it takes is to be mindful. Sound easy? It is. The well-known phrase, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” can and does make a major impact on the environment. It is a lesson that my school instilled in me and my classmates since kindergarten. As a result, my family has consistently recycled our waste, but now, due to the stay-at-home orders, we seem to be even more efficient. We have been buying less, which makes less waste, and using what we have on hand, right down to that last bag of frozen broccoli. We travel less, which helps with emissions, and we walk more. We are staying organized and keeping tidy —even my room— because it helps the house function better. I believe the planet would operate better if we applied these same concepts.

During this pandemic, we have seen how working together has benefited the community as a whole. This same mindset can be placed on keeping our planet healthy for us and our future generations because we are all in this together.

~ Emerson Rock

Withering Wilderness

Pure air seeps into my lungs and the freshwater refreshes my skin. The deep jade trees and canoe tower over my head. With each paddle stroke or curve in the portage trail, we fade farther away from cell service and into an unmatched paradise. Here, the sky devoid of light pollution and the glass-like water is clean enough to drink. A good book, hammock, bear-proof Duluth Pack with food, and a zip-close bag of clothes are all I need to make this one of the best weeks of summer. These are the days when real life slips away and I am connected to the wilderness instead of my phone.

What if I told you this blissful place could turn into a wasteland? Twin Metals wants to mine within 3 miles of the Boundary Waters. If this were to happen the pristine water would become acidic with heavy metals, sulfates, and phosphorus that would lead to algae blooms. In the BWCA this could be detrimental to the land surface, soil, and shallow groundwater. First, minnows would be harmed, then walleyes and loons, and eventually the recreational economy. Who would want to visit the BWCA if you can’t drink water from the lake or see the animals that call it home?

It is a privilege to have clean water come out of the tap and to be able to drink water from the lake. Our actions need to be carefully considered to preserve this wilderness for the next Sickmann 2 generation. You can help by signing petitions, donating to organizations like Save the Boundary Waters, writing to elected officials, or volunteering. We are guests in Mother Nature’s home. Should you dump trash on her lawn or pollute her water with chemicals?

~ Allison Sickmann

Little Change, Big Difference

“Be the change you want to see in the world”- Mahatma Gandhi.

We, as Minnesotans, have one of the most beautiful environments not only in America but in the entire world. With that being said, we need to try a little harder to keep it that way.

In the last five years, America has lost 1 percent of its trees. This may seem like a small number, but 1 percent represents a little more than 36 million trees. If we don’t do something soon we will lose our beautiful forests. By 2050, America will have lost 216,000,000 trees. Even though the scientific community has warned us time and time again, we continue to destroy nature for personal gain. Humans have always felt the need to conquer their environment throughout history. Hubert Humphrey, a former vice president, knew this and wanted to spark change. Once, when visiting Cloquet in 1970, he asked, “Can we as a nation entertain the painful possibility that our proud effort to conquer nature and to tame the frontier may very well have been destructive?” This was 50 years ago, yet we still destroy more and more of the environment every day.

Big companies have already started to try to save the climate. For example, Coca-Cola has designed a plan to cut fuel emissions by 25 percent by 2025. But the real change starts with just normal people; we need to change our ways and soon. I have realized a few small things we could implement to stop wasting precious natural resources. One is to give out recycling bins to every Bryant-Nikko 2 household. When used properly, this would eliminate the waste of reusable plastics, glass, and metals. Another easy way for our community to cut back on plastic waste would be to install water bottle filling stations all around town. If we all carried a reusable bottle we could cut back our plastic waste dramatically.

We have not implemented things like these into our community yet, but if we do not change our ways soon we will have to. I am asking that every able person start to make the small changes in their lives to save our beautiful planet.

~ Jonah Bryant-Nikko

At What Cost?

Loss of nature is not something new, and with the continued exploitation of nature, the end is not in sight. Until people see forests as shelters of the past and beacons of culture, instead of a desolate expanse waiting to be developed, nothing will change. Without change, everything we once knew will be forgotten in the conquest for progress. We have to make a stand and fight to protect what’s left. The seeds of nature have been planted by past generations, and it’s our duty to cultivate the seeds for the future so that one day, others can enjoy the beauty and protection of nature that we are lucky to have.

Greed has taken over and suppressed our connection to nature. At this pace, a day could come when we might finally try to protect what’s left of nature, but only hardly any remains untainted. We need to start conserving nature now so people in the future have a chance to find refuge in nature. Nature has given me a sanctuary unsurpassed by developed areas, and not giving future generations the chance to discover nature’s sanctuary is absurd. We need to grasp the consequences of development, because there is much more at stake than building a few homes.

Right now there are plans being made to cut down the forest along London Road in Duluth to create space for housing. The bold forests that once stood defiant to change, like many other forests surrounding it, will be forgotten over generations. It may be too late to save the forest along London Road, but every foot lost makes the fight for what’s left even more important.

We have to take a stand against the development of the few sanctuaries remaining and protect what’s left. If not, a day will come when no one remembers the beautiful forests and streams that once resided where development took over. It’s time we maintain the past, and give the future a chance to protect what has not been lost.

~ Cale Prosen

On the Inspiration of Change

During this time, it can be easy to forget about the planet, and this Earth Day is a great time to remind ourselves of the importance of protecting the environment. There are many things that we can do on an individual, local, statewide, national, and worldwide scale to try to protect this planet.

One of the biggest things you can try is writing to government representatives who have the power to set laws and regulations regarding the health of our planet. If enough people show that they care, they will listen. They can help with the larger issues such as deforestation, emissions, and the types of energy we use. This will definitely help, but perhaps the most important thing we can do is to be smart consumers and take a few minutes out of our busy lives to consider the environmental impact of the products we are buying. When enough people ask for something, our voices can be heard and we can use them to inspire change in the cycle of consumerism.

This may seem daunting, but there are several things we can do on a local and individual level to lend our planet a helping hand. Simple things such as using less water, recycling, and buying things with less packaging may seem small, but if everyone started contributing, they could have a profound impact on the environment. Another helpful thing to offset our carbon footprint is driving less; consider other options such as biking and walking as an alternative for short-distance travel. Carpooling and the use of public transport can also play a big role in reducing emissions. Other small things such as keeping your thermostat a few degrees cooler in the winter and a few degrees warmer in the winter, will not only help your electric bill but also help the environment.

If we are to preserve this planet that we all live on, we cannot simply wait for others to solve our problems for us. We must take an active stand and show the world that we care. It is our individual and collective responsibility as a worldwide society to care for this planet on which we all live and depend.

~Jacob Mertz

Fast Fashion Takeover

Take a look outside your window. Some of us see the sun in the sky, birds, and others a lake. Whether you live in the city or country, the earth surrounds us all and it is important to take care of it. There are many ways to make even the smallest difference, such as not using one-use utensils and straws, walking to your destination, and bringing reusable bags to the store. Something we could all do is make sure to not leave a trace when you go camping or to a state park. But I want to talk about something that most people do not think will make a difference: clothing.

At some point, we have all bought a piece of clothing with the intention of wearing it, but instead it sat in the back of our closets. Eventually, we throw it away or donate it to the thrift store for them to deal with. But did you know that most times, the clothes you put in a bag to bring to a secondhand store actually end up in a different country or landfill? Eleven million tons of fabric are thrown away yearly in the U.S. Only the best clothes are put on the racks to be resold, and even then, people decide to cave in to fast fashion. Have you ever noticed how stores change their selection of clothes so fast? Most of those stores use sweatshops to make new, trendy clothes in order to put them on the shelves before the next style comes in. Sweatshops are dangerous for the workers, consumers, and the planet. The harsh chemicals in clothing never fully break down in a landfill and are hazardous to people and animals.

There are many ways to help reduce the amount of waste in the fast fashion industry, but the most important is to stop buying clothes you are only going to wear once or twice. More than likely, it will end up in a landfill without getting full useage. Try to look for sustainable clothing brands or shop secondhand. Next time you go shopping, try to think about how useful the clothing item will be to you to try to prevent fast fashion taking over.

~ Amelia Allen

Natural is Beautiful

I spend a lot of time outdoors. I participate in two outdoor sports — soccer and track — and my family loves state parks. We love to camp and hike and fish and just spend time in the natural part of our world. To be able to witness the closest thing to pure nature with fresh air in our lungs is a beautiful thing.

I wish that more people could see what I see. I see rivers being polluted by factories and companies. I see animals being driven out of their homes by deforestation. I see sea levels rising around the world. I see the beauty of the natural world being tainted.

There is much that has been done to protect natural forests in the United States. President Theodore Roosevelt was an active conservationist. He formed national forests, game preserves, parks, monuments, and bird preserves. More recently, in February of 2019, Congress voted to give over 1.3 million acres the highest level of land protection: wilderness. They also gave almost a million more acres some level of protection and permanently secured money to fund conservation projects across the country.

While all that is all good, what I would like to see is a decrease in deforestation and the protection of even more lands. As trees are cut down and killed, they release carbon dioxide; this adds to the destruction of our ozone layer and global warming. I understand that there will always be a need for logging, but limiting where logging is allowed even further and finding a way to more efficiently stop illegal deforestation would go a long way toward helping the environment. Also, deforestation drives animals out of their native homes. Though the replanting of trees does help, it changes the dynamic of the wildlife in their ecosystem. To alleviate some of the stress on such wildlife, I would propose forming more animal sanctuaries; land protected for only native animals to use. In 2018, the United States was not even in the top 100 countries for the percentage of land protected.

There is much natural beauty in our country. And in our world. Brazil? The Amazon Rainforest. Venice, Italy? Its canals — sure, they are manmade, but the water levels are controlled by the same natural forces as the oceans. Egypt? The Nile River. Northern California, Oregon, and Washington? The giant redwoods and sequoias. Arizona? The Grand Canyon. Florida? The Everglades. Minnesota? Our 10,000 lakes. The Rocky Mountains. The Appalachian Mountains. The Mississippi River. The Great Lakes. Our beautiful country. Our beautiful world. The best things in this life are natural. And it is up to us to protect them for those that will come in the future.

~ Caley Kruse

Free Our Streets of Litter

As I stroll down the street for my daily walk, three things capture my attention. First, I gaze at the seemingly pristine blue sky and the whimsical clouds. Second, I stare at the neighbors gorgeous dog, and third — to my dismay— I notice the insane amounts of litter clogging up the ditch off the side of the road. I see beer bottles, fast food containers, cigarette butts, and endless amounts of torn-up wrappers. As I continue walking, I glance at the signs our kindly neighbors put up, which politely ask for people to stop littering. However, that doesn’t seem to be enough. Although we are told about the disruption littering causes to our ecosystem, that hasn’t stopped countless people from contaminating our gorgeous surroundings.

Fifty years ago, Hubert Humphrey spoke at the SCARE symposium in Cloquet. There, he expressed his thoughts about the environment and delivered this timeless quote: “Every lake in this state is part of your front yard. When people start polluting the air, polluting the rivers, dumping their sewage into the lakes and rivers, spewing up their smoke and fumes into the atmosphere, what they're really doing is taking a great big garbage truck and just driving up to your house and dumping it.” Even though this quote is from 1970 it, sadly, still applies to us today. Much too often, my family and neighbors see people drive to our ditches just to dump their trash. It is not uncommon to find tires, mattresses, and old clothes strewn across the grass. Keep in mind, we are within the city limits and in no way a secluded area. It is no secret that trash and pollution have been clogging up our environment for years and years. Just take a good look around our little town of Cloquet and you will be in awe after seeing the endless amounts of litter that pollute our beautiful climate. In 2016, 40 percent of Minnesota lakes were polluted by some sort of runoff, bacteria, mercury, or other pollutants, according to MPR News. A study done by the Rochester Institute of Technology found that 22 million pounds of plastic enters the Great Lakes each year, with 70,000 pounds falling into our own pride and joy — Lake Superior.

Picking up trash and recycling it will not only help our streets, lakes, and rivers, but it can also help boost our economy. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency writes that “Recycling creates jobs: approximately 37,000 jobs in our state are directly or indirectly supported by the industry. These jobs pay almost $2 billion in wages and add nearly $8.5 billion to Minnesota's economy.” This said, collecting trash and recycling will have countless positive effects on our community and economy.

Although talking about our trash problem brings incredible awareness to the subject, it is not enough. I hope that we can continue on our journey to a cleaner environment and work to free our streets of litter. Collecting trash and recycling will save us our our environment, animals, and money. Together, we can make our lakes, rivers, streets, and lives clean again.

~ Lydia Stone

 
 

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