By Dave Deegan
This week we celebrate one of my favorite holidays – Independence Day, the Fourth of July. Even now, decades after I left school for good and have been in the workforce, this early summer holiday continues to hold strong associations and memories of the thrill I once felt knowing that the whole summer was waiting ahead of me with fun activities like swimming, camping, baseball games, picnics, long days and lingering twilight. Great, relaxing times with family and friends, and sometimes a welcome trip to the beach or a mountain lake.
Nowadays, celebrating our nation’s founding on Independence Day has far deeper meaning than the pleasure of a picnic or watching a jaw-dropping fireworks display. I always am grateful for the freedom we enjoy in the US: freedoms to read and write and debate, the liberty to live where and how we choose and the promise to define one’s own life work.
Of course, we all accept that our personal freedom has limits, either for other people’s good or for the community as a whole. When it comes to the environment, we all live both upstream as well as downstream. My actions can impact you, just as yours can impact me. As someone who cares a lot about EPA’s mission – to protect human health and the environment – I am always aware of the trade-off required when it comes down to EPA enforcing the laws to keep harmful pollution from the water, air or land.
What is ironic in all of this is that so much of what makes our collective independence so precious actually depends so much on our collective interdependence. Our will and willingness to be good neighbors to each other often goes hand-in-hand with being good stewards of our environment.
So here’s to a great Fourth, to enjoying some potato salad, a burger, a small-town parade and a marching band playing the patriotic classics. And maybe a few thoughts to how good it is to breathe clean air, to enjoy fresh healthy water and to dig a garden in good soil.
About the author: Dave Deegan works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. When he’s not digging rocks out of his garden, he loves being outdoors in one of New England’s many special places.