Recently, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced plans to get some environmental legislation through Congress before July 4 so that it will be “Energy Independence Day”:
Of course, there’s no way the United States can eliminate the need to get energy (oil, etc.) from other countries in less than two months, so her choice of phrasing is political hyperbole. But it’s great that Congress is taking some action on environmental issues!
As for July 4, a friend and I happened to be talking about it just a few days before Pelosi’s speech. Fireworks and cookouts are fun, but they create a lot of air pollution. What could people do on July 4 that would be fun without being environmentally damaging? We hit on the idea of staying close to home, instead of traveling. There are already lots of holidays for getting together with faraway relatives. Why not make July 4 a sort of National Block Party Day, a time to get together with people you can walk to? Enjoy the long hours of daylight playing outdoors, which doesn’t use any energy. Eat lots of fresh local produce. Make your own ice cream in one of those hand-cranked machines; it’s good exercise and old-fashioned tradition. Use real dishes and have fun washing them together and splashing each other. Run in the sprinkler and share the water with plants. Sit together in the gathering dusk telling stories. Sounds like fun to me!
How dare I suggest doing without fireworks?! Well, actually, what I’d prefer is to have fireworks ONLY on July 4. That’s how it was when I was a kid: I loved fireworks, and they were a special treat, seen only once a year. These days, a lot of sports teams shoot off fireworks every time they win, Disney parks and similar attractions have fireworks shows every single night, various local festivals include a fireworks show…the specialness is gone. Also, if you live in a city with sports teams but don’t pay much attention to them (like me), every so often you hear mysterious booming sounds and wonder if your city is being destroyed by terrorists or Vogons, which is distressing in this post-9/11, pre-interstellar bypass era. In the interest of encouraging citizens to be alert to possible invasions, reducing air pollution, saving the chemicals used in fireworks for more practical uses, and making our Independence Day special, I think we should quit having fireworks for any other occasion.