It was a late at night and a policeman was responding to public disturbance. The officer tried to break up the scene by asking a scruffy instigator, “Where do you live?”
The middle aged shabby man responded, “I live on 8th Street.”
The policeman inquired, “What is your address?”
The untidy man then hemmed and hawed, but he would not give a direct answer.
The cop then barked, “Look, are you a transient?”
“No!” the homeless man defiantly responded, “I AM AN AMERICAN!”
This is a true story on the TV show COPS eighteen years ago. The man in that story may have been homeless and down on his luck. However, he was still proud to be an American, just like all of us are here tonight.
America has been so wonderful for me also providing me a free public education, allowing me to work as a ranger in the national parks, and the freedom to travel about the country and world. Even though I am proud to be an American, I am here tonight to say that my patriotism does not end at the Mexican and Canadian border. That is where it begins. I am even more patriotic for the planet, for our spaceship Earth. It is our home. Without it, none of us would be here. My focus here tonight is to inspire you tonight to care for our planet. Just like you love America, you want to be patriotic for the Earth because it is UNIQUE, SMALL, AND OUR SACRED HOME.
How unique is Earth? According to the September 12, 2011 edition of National Geographic News, astronomers have now discovered over 600 planets outside our solar system. As far as scientists can tell, Earth is still the only know planet that can support life for you and me.
Author Paul Hawken tells a fascinating story in his 2007 book Blessed Unrest. Recently, Paul and I even corresponded directly about this story which I think demonstrates how unique the Earth is. Sixty chemical engineers from a very prominent chemical company were divided into four teams. Each team was to design a spacecraft that would support life for 100 years. In this competition, the spaceship would have no size limit, no trap door or way to throw anything away, but it could receive light. The four teams would present their spaceship. Everyone would then vote for the best spaceship where they would want to live. The winners brought no company products. In fact, they shunned them. They grew their food organically on the ship, without using the company pesticides. The other ships brought videos and dvds to entertain themselves. However, the winners took diverse people on board, such as storytellers, artists, singers, dancers, (and possibly TOASTMASTERS!). After that, several quit their job at this chemical pesticide company. They started an organic garden. To me, this story says you just cannot beat spaceship Earth as a unique home.
My second point: Besides being unique, like the song says: IT REALLY IS A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL!
According to NASA, the circumference or distance around the earth is almost 25,000 miles. That is extremely small when you realize that the average American drives their car over 13,000 miles a year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. If you do the math, this means the miles you will drive in your car in less than 2 years for all purposes will equal the distance around the earth.
Renowned scientist Carl Sagan used to say that “If you had a globe covered with a coat of varnish, the thickness of that varnish would be about the same as the thickness of the earth’s atmosphere compared to the earth itself.”
Basically, the atmosphere that surrounds us on the planet is extremely miniscule. The habitable part of the planet where humans can tolerate continuously living appears to be up to 18,000 feet elevation. This is less than 3 and half miles. That is less of a distance than probably most of us drove from our house to this Toastmasters meeting tonight.
But, Hey! We have a big problem right now. We are treating the small livable part of spaceship earth, our atmosphere, as an unregulated SEWER to dump our vehicle and industrial wastes. Currently, carbon dioxide emissions are roughly 36.7 billion, with a B, metric tons a year. Throwing this much carbon dioxide into our atmosphere is really no different than me lighting up a cigarette in this room. Even more, imagine that you were swimming in a beautiful Olympic size swimming pool. Then you saw someone peeing into the pool. Then you saw another person peeing into the pool. Then another. And another. At way point would you yell at the top of your lungs, “STOP PEEING IN MY POOL!”
Fortunately, we can find ways to stop polluting our small spaceship earth. All this carbon dioxide is thrown into our atmosphere by burning mass qualities of coal, oil, and natural gas. The good news is that there are alternative ways to obtain our energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, bio fuels, and even nuclear to reduce the pollution of our atmosphere. Even you can do your part to pollute Spaceship Earth less by driving slower, driving less, and looking for ways to be more energy efficient in your home or business.
Now we just talked about how earth is UNIQUE, SMALL, AND WE ARE POLLUTING IT WAY TOO MUCH. However, my goal here tonight is to get you to EXPAND YOUR PATRIOTISM. May your love for America also be expanded to a love for our planet.
I want to inspire you to think of the earth as SACRED by giving you a gift here tonight. Please feel free to open up the envelope placed in front of you. What is it? It is a little blue marble. Now I want you to take that little blue marble between your fingers and stretch out your arm as far as it will go. This is approximately what spaceship earth, our home looks like from a million miles out in space – a blue water planet.
I first read about the little blue marbles in this December 2011 issue of Outside Magazine. SEA turtle Biologist, Wallace J. Nichols, who is pictured on the cover, originated the idea of giving away the blue marble. Wallace even friended me on Facebook recently. If Dr. Nichols was here tonight, he would want us to know that if water was inside the marble, the marble would contain virtually all of earth’s elements. Most importantly, he wants you to think of someone who is doing good work for the planet. Then, imagine how good both of you would feel if presented them with this marble saying ‘thank you for caring for the earth’.
Again, my focus here tonight was to inspire you to care for our planet. Whether we are that homeless man causing a disturbance, a policeman or a millionaire, we all have been blessed to live in America. What a great county! With all the benefits of living here, it is very easy to be patriotic. However, there would be no United States of America without sacred planet Earth, our home. I now want to encourage you for EXPAND YOUR PATRIOTISM FOR THE PLANET. As American writer and activist Henry David Thoreau said so beautifully in 1851, “What is the use of a house, if you do not have a decent planet to put it on?”