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Has it really been 43 years since the first "Earth Day?"

I remember it well; that's when I became an environmentalist.

Most of my friends think of me as a retired English teacher, concerned with literature, commas and apostrophes. But I spent three of my teaching years in Atlanta's Environmental Education Program. That was after my Earth Day teaching experience, probably as a result of it.

I'll briefly summarize that experience.

After reading an article about Sen. Gaylord Nelson's proposal to establish a national Earth Day, with an emphasis on providing materials to be used in schools, I asked one of my honor classes, focusing that quarter on oral language, whether they would like to participate.

They would and they did - amazingly.

They did research, wrote papers, made numerous oral presentations including panel discussions, slide shows, short dramatic skits (which were televised by Atlanta Public TV).

Some of them put their newly acquired interest and knowledge into action, such as the group who cleaned out a section of Nancy Creek and found themselves on the evening news with their truckloads of trash.

At any rate, that project led to my helping students who were working on independent study contracts in environmental projects. And, two years later, when Dykes High School (where I was English department chair) was closed, that connection led me to accept a position with the EE Program.

For those years, I was immersed in a new world of learning as I helped develop units for classroom teachers, hold teacher training workshops and student environmental camps and continue to work with students' individual contracts as they developed their projects.

Believe me, I learned a lot.

At that time, we were concerned with population explosions, non-renewable resource depletion, air and water pollution, solid waste disposal, disposition of nuclear waste.

Climate change/global warming was not yet on the front burner, although the realization of our dependence on foreign oil did hit hard during those years.

All those concerns have not been erased, but important steps have been taken in several directions. We are still, however, slaves to our automobiles and thus to harmful emissions and dependence on foreign oil. We are becoming more and more aware of the dangers of man-made climate changes.

Strangely enough, many of the current ideas proposed to "fix the problem" are exactly the ones which environmentalists of the '70s made: Energy efficiency, especially in the use of renewable energy; being more of a "green society;" preserving trees, especially in rain forests; general conservation.

And, just as we preached decades ago, none of us can do everything but each of us can do something. We can change the type of light bulbs, use eco-friendly products (including automobiles), find a number of ways to save water and power. It all adds up. Mighty oaks do indeed grow from little acorns.

We'll do it if we decide it is important.

Now, I will reveal that the above was published (with only a few changes) on April 18, 2007.

Hopefully, we are continuing to improve in some of our attitudes and actions.

The conservation department of the Dawson County Woman's Club is hosting an Earth Day celebration at 11 a.m. April 22 in the Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden at Rock Creek Park.

You are invited to join them.

Helen Taylor's column appears periodically in the Dawson Community News.