Earth Day reminds us of duties

On April 22, we observed Earth Day, a time to review our obligation to care for the Earth and its natural resources.
In eastern coal mines, we blast Appalachian mountaintops off into valleys, blocking miles of streams.  In the Midwest, we plow up dry area grasslands to grow crops by taking too much water from underground aquifers. In the arid west, we dam rivers so people and crops can live in deserts. The land becomes more saline, and the rivers no longer reach the sea.
Before Europeans arrived, Minnesota was a natural resource treasure, with forests of white pine and large deposits of rich iron ore. Our fertile glacial soils were nourished by the ample waters of our lakes, streams and aquifers.
Then our forests were clear-cut, their lumber exported to the world. Much of the iron ore has gone everywhere, leaving behind those empty pits. We need to protect our remaining soil and the waters which nourish it.
All over the earth, the abuse of nature continues. People in less developed nations are hungry, while the wealthier make a place at the food table for cars and trucks by converting food to fuel. Producing that food requires extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides, sending chemicals into ground water and rivers, nourishing algae-laden dead zones in rivers and seas.
The consequence for these acts will not be sudden. Instead, rivers will gradually silt up the dams, overtopping and removing them to resume their destined routes to the sea. Soils and ground water, impacted by industrial single-cropping, will no longer nourish our billions. A warming atmosphere, polluted by overuse of carbon fuels, will wreak its own havoc.
There is still time — but not much — to take seriously the responsibility for the earth that comes with our dominion over it.
Rolf Westgard
Minnesota Daily reader