Earth Day, the day set aside globally to appreciate our planet and all the bounty and wonder it has to offer, provides an opportunity to consider what we as individuals, or as representatives of organizations, can contribute to the ecological health and vitality of the Blue Planet. While we have done much to protect our resources, events like Earth Day remind all of us of our constant responsibility to establish a new generation of sustainable living and business operations, with respect for the Earth and dedication to improve our environment as a year-round commitment. Today, people, organizations, and governments throughout the world pause to celebrate what has been done and identify what remains to be done to protect the water, air, and land that sustain us and our communities.
Across the United States today, individuals will be working -- perhaps quietly alone or enthusiastically with others -- to make their little piece of nature better. Mothers, fathers and their children will clean trash from the riverbanks in parks where their family enjoys weekend picnics. Schoolchildren in cities will plant the vacant lots in their neighborhoods full of flowers and trees that will bloom and brighten their young lives. Community groups will reach out to their neighbors to help them understand how normal everyday activities like fertilizing and watering our gardens and lawns, if done carelessly, will devastate our watersheds. All of our own little pieces of nature add up to this home we call Earth. If we do not each do our part, Earth Day and every day, we cannot expect others to act.
One of the biggest impacts we can make is by educating and motivating others, especially children who will be leading environmental protection in the years ahead, about the things that they can do to conserve and protect - and enjoy - our resources. In fact, the very first Earth Day was designed as a 'nationwide teach-in day' about the environment. Water is of course an essential resource that we cannot live without, and private water service companies are doing their part to keep water top-of-mind as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.
To promote appreciation for our natural resources, Middlesex Water launched a Water Drop Pledge Contest for students in grades 2-5 in the Company's service area. The more than 1,200 entrants were asked to decorate a water drop and provide one idea of how they hoped to help protect the environment. Winners will be awarded a $25 gift card and are being selected based on the creativity and originality of their artwork and idea. Middlesex Water employee-volunteers help to select the winners, and the best ideas will be shared by the company.
Suburban Water Systems, a California-based subsidiary of SouthWest Water Company, honored Earth Day on Saturday, April 17, by joining the Los Angeles County Sanitation District and many other agencies at a free community-wide event promoting environmental awareness. Suburban's booth featured educational information and an arts and crafts activity for children that was one of the most successful draws at the event. Colored beads were distributed, each identified as symbolizing a part of the water cycle, and as bracelets were crafted the children were taught about the water cycle and the importance of water conservation.
Missouri American Water will be participating in St. Louis Earth Day, the oldest Earth Day celebration west of the Mississippi River, engaging visitors with a water trivia wheel and providing hands-on opportunities for children to learn about watersheds.
Outside of the U.S., there are developing countries where access to water often requires long, daily treks to a shared water well of poor quality and limited supply. Activists of all kinds -- water professionals and those whose profession is a little different -- are rolling up their sleeves, visiting these parts of the world and striving to raise both awareness of the crisis and funds to provide clean water and sanitation to alleviate waterborne illnesses from unsafe drinking water, the world's leading cause of disease.
A group of actors and advocates including Jessica Biel and Alexandra Cousteau climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in January under the banner of the organization Summit on the Summit to "do [an] extreme thing" to raise awareness of the global water crisis. Actor Matt Damon started H20 Africa, a clean water initiative dedicated to building public awareness of the water crisis in Africa and gathering support for clean water programs in critical areas.
These efforts and many more are helping to build an understanding that our resources, water principal among them, aren't infinite. We all have a role to play, whether we've been nominated for a Grammy, won an Oscar, or just want to do our part to protect our planet for generations to come.
Take the inspiring accomplishment of 23-year-old Katie Spotz of suburban Cleveland, Ohio, as a prime example of what one person can accomplish. Last month, Katie became the youngest person ever to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean, which she did "to raise awareness and funds for clean drinking water." Her 70-day trek raised $75,000 for Blue Planet Run, a non-profit organization funding safe drinking water projects for the over one billion people around the world in need. Amazing images, video and blog entries of her incredible feat are all available on her website, rowforwater.com.
Most of us are unlikely, today or any day, to take up oars and try to replicate a journey like that one. But on April 22nd, and every day, we can appreciate our world of water and renew our commitment to protect our resources and use them wisely. Just as Katie, stroke by stroke, achieved her goal, every one of us, day by day, can sustain our Earth.