Lack of Earth Day volunteer opportunities disappointing

By Abby Abrams

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. More than a generation has passed since a Wisconsin senator encouraged Harvard graduate student Denis Hayes to found the first world-wide celebration of the Earth. Forty years is a long time, so this year’s Earth Day celebration should be a big deal-but why are there so few opportunities for teens to get involved?

As Earth Day, April 22, approaches, I have begun to search for community events in which other teens and I can participate. Of course, there is the annual St. Louis Earth Day Festival in Forest Park, but other options seem few and far between. This surprised me, given Earth Day’s anniversary and the continuously growing popularity of the environmental movement.

Particularly in the St. Louis Jewish community, I have found little to no mention of Earth Day on any synagogue or other calendar. April 22 has the potential to be a day full of volunteering, action and tikkun olam. The Jewish Environmental Initiative founded its new Teen Group; many teenagers are aware of the environment on other days. So why is there a lack of Jewish and teen participation on a day dedicated entirely to this cause?

As teens, environmentalism and tikkun olam should be at the forefront of our minds. Our parents started the environmental movement in the 1970s, and now it is our turn. Spreading awareness and helping to save the world is the only way to ensure our future. If we don’t take a stand and begin helping now, who will save the world for our children?

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The global environment changes every day, as is visible by the unpredictable weather across the country so far this year. The ozone layer continues to thin, polar ice continues to melt and species become extinct every minute that we worry about who was voted off of last night’s “American Idol.”

While the speed with which I just described global climate change may be a slight exaggeration, it is not as much of a hyperbole as some might think. Clearly, humans have made great strides toward becoming more eco-friendly, and most people accept that there is something scary happening to our planet. However, we still have a long way to go; this is exactly why Earth Day was created.

On the St. Louis Earth Day Festival’s website, it boasts many opportunities to volunteer and get involved. Whether you volunteer, organize, or simply attend and enjoy, celebrating Earth Day should be like a new kind of mitzvah. So, despite the lack of organized events happening near or on Earth Day 2010, I will be participating in what will hopefully be one of the most inspiring and exciting events of the year. I hope that Jewish teens and adults alike will join me in this effort, and make tikkun olam the priority that it should be for our generation and for those yet to come.