A Few Notes On This Earth Day, April 22nd, 2014, from Doug Draper
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
I first learned of this wise old line in 1979, when I began a more than decade-and-a-half long odyssey as a full-time environment reporter for the then great, independently owned St. Catharines Standard in Niagara, Ontario.
This photo of earth from the moon, taken by U.S. space travellers in the late 1960s, inspired the first Eath Day. It taught us, or should have taught us that this wondrous planet in our solar system and beyond, remains the only place that is an oasis for life as we know it. We must have the vision to look after it, or we may lose it all.
The line was recited to me in an interview I did that year – a full nine years after the first Earth Day – with Sister Margeen Hoffman, a Catholic nun in Niagara Falls, New York. Sister Margeen, who was a member of the proud St. Franciscan Order of her church, reprised the line from Proverbs and from St. Francis of Assisi, an Italian Catholic frier from more than eight centuries ago who made a mark as one of the world’s first environmentalists.
The line meant all the more to Sister Margeen, who was a leader of an ecumenical group in Niagara County, New York that was helping families who found themselves living in homes built on top of a notorious chemical dump that became known around the world, by the time I started my environmental reporting, as the Love Canal.
There was no vision, only blindness brought on by the greed of land speculators and other profiteers, before those families unwittingly bought homes in Love Canal neighbourhood, and as a witch’s brew of dioxins and other poisons surfaced in their yards and basements, they were forced to flee and what was a seemingly typical suburban neighbourhood perished. Continue reading