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Can we make a difference?

• Apr 20, 2018 at 11:00 AM

Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day, and throughout the weekend various groups both locally and across the nearly 200 nations that recognize the annual environmental holiday will celebrate it.

On the local level, much is being done to help clean up the mess humans have created.

A group will gather at Grand Haven State Park today to clean up the beach, including picking up shards of fugitive concrete that have washed ashore following pier construction.

On Saturday and Sunday, groups will head out onto the Grand River, where they’ll pick up all sorts of trash that have washed down the river and onto its shores.

Also on Saturday, the Earth Day Lakeshore Celebration is planned. Those attending are encouraged to walk or bike to the Grand Haven Community Center, avoiding the use of fossil fuels. Following a parade, 30 environmental booths will be set up at the Community Center. The afternoon will also include a panel discussion on renewable energy.

All of these efforts are wonderful, but it makes us wonder — can we really make a difference?

We’re confronted with a huge mess across our globe: Miles-long islands of trash float in our oceans. Our groundwater is contaminated due to poisonous chemicals dumped into the soil for decades. Deforestation of our tropical rainforests continue at an alarming rate — it’s reported that one and a half acres disappear every second.

Many are worried about the declining bee population, the melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, dead zones in the ocean where depleted oxygen levels cannot support marine life. Population growth continues to swell and leads to frightening scenarios.

Can walking instead of driving for one afternoon, or picking up a sack full of trash from along a river or roadside, really make a difference?


Think back to the popular childhood parable of the little boy walking along a beach littered with starfish that were washed up by the tide. He picks up one after another and tosses them into the water, realizing that they’ll all be baked by the sun and die if they don’t get off the beach.

An observer says to the boy, “There are thousands of starfish, and only one of you. How can you ever hope to make a difference?”

And the boy picks up a starfish, tosses it into the water and says, “I made a difference to that one.”

Our efforts locally aren’t going to directly impact deforestation or floating islands of trash in the sea. But if our efforts are joined by those across the state, across the country and across the globe, then our small steps become vastly more impactful, and we realize that, yes, we can make a difference.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Matt DeYoung, Mark Brooky, Alex Doty, Josh VanDyke and Duncan MacLean. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to [email protected] or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

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