Throughout the world, since 1970, April 22nd, has been designated Earth Day. One of the catalysts was the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962. The book represented a watershed moment, raising public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and highlighting links between pollution and public health. I have a battered copy on my shelf and I have, sadly, first-hand experience of growing up on a mixed arable farm where no wild flowers grew, no birds sang and where tons of toxic chemicals were sprayed over fields. In these difficult and despairing times, it’s hard to conjure up a sense of awe but, as Earth Day 2021 approaches, here are my suggestions for rekindling something that comes close to this emotion.
My lockdown hobbies have come and gone but studying astronomy has definitely brought a sense of awe into my life. I urge you to look up (and not down at your phones) and spend some time looking at the night sky. I’m showing off now – forgive me – but the other night, from my garden, I saw the ISS (International Space Station) orbit the Earth. Isn’t that amazing? Okay, now this is where I let myself down because I can really only find two constellations for sure and I haven’t pinpointed the Pole Star yet, but somehow, it doesn’t matter. The beauty and joy of looking through a pair of binoculars at Mars is thrilling. My course has also reminded me of how extraordinarily unique planet Earth is and how we should take good care of it. There is no planet B – I know enough astronomy now to be able to say that, categorically.
Still looking to the skies for my next ‘awe’ fix, I am anxiously waiting for return of the house martins and swallows to Tayport. This year I am making sure the house martins get an extra warm welcome by putting up some nest cups in the eaves of my house. There is no guarantee that they will honour my home but as their traditional nesting sites are being carelessly destroyed, I hope they find refuge with me. I have never ceased to be in awe of the remarkable migrations they make. These tiny, exquisite birds travel all the way back from their winter-feeding grounds in Africa to grace us with their joyful presence. I’ve read the science behind these amazing feats of endurance but their journeys, and the countless hazards they face to return to rear their young in Tayport, is surely worth noting with awe.
If I look closely there are examples of ‘awe’ all round me: in the oak trees behind my house that have the tiniest hint of green buds; in the dots of frog spawn in my newly-made garden pond; in the glimpse of a small tortoiseshell butterfly on the primroses.
Please, join me on Earth Day, 22nd of April, and discover a sense of awe for this astonishing place we call Earth, and home.