Happy Earth Day Again

By: 
Roberto Vazquez
MILLIKAN HIGH senior Lucas Lopez holds a pump as part of his senior project on water conservation.

On this date in 1970, the first Earth Day was celebrated. Then, it was better known as Happy Earth Day and is credited as an environmental tipping point of sorts, on the heels of other movements led by young people, including the Civil Rights Movement and the fight to end U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Earth Day in 1970 was so successful, it helped lead to other key developments in our nation’s continued enlightenment, including the Clean Air Act (1970), the Clean Water Act (1972) and the Endangered Species Act (1973), as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) less than a year after Earth Day.

As we celebrate the 52nd anniversary, it’s important to take a look at water ecology.

Megadrought Continues

It’s Earth Day, 2022, but as April comes to an end, so does the window for the rainfall season. California’s facing a drought that is of biblical proportion. According to some experts, the current drought is extremely rare, something seen every 1200 years, or so.

The drought has caused California so many problems that Gov. Newsom recently announced another cutback of water sold to farms and cities, as Californians struggle to self-impose water conservation. As a result, some city officials are resorting to $500 fines for water wasters. Is there another way to address the drought, beyond conservation and fines? One local resident is proposing if not a novel idea, a potential stopgap solution to water preservation by repurposing it.

The Latest Green Generation

Too many people are still wasting water, according to Lucas Lopez, a senior at Millikan High, where he is part of the Quest Program.

The program is one of five pathways, known as Student Learning Communities, with the Quest program including a community-service based element for the senior project.

The Quest program does not have a curriculum, instead, students research their community as a whole.

On a recent Saturday morning, as Lopez stood before a group of family, friends and neighbors at a local library, he explained his idea for a senior project came to him when comparing his home’s front lawn to a neighbor’s.

After realizing how much water is spent on lawns, he then set about the best way to reclaim gray water from a washing machine in a way that is low cost, easy to build and effective.

Lopez designed a system that uses bio clean laundry detergent, a 55-gallon trash can to hold the gray water, a trash compactor pump and hose attachments. He told the audience it cost $150, for everything included.

Lopez said, “Any home can use it.”

He added, the savings came out to 540 gallons a month and nearly 6,500 gallons per year.

Lopez reflected on the senior project and his teacher, Ms. Tubbs. “This project gave me a better understanding of the California drought, helped (improve) my public speaking and inspired me to do more for my community.”

He added, “Ms. Tubbs leadership is based on your own self-motivation. She is there to keep you accountable and guide you, and serves as a mentor that you can ask questions.”

Seated in the back row, Ms. Tubbs closely watched Lopez do his presentation. It’s her day off but she showed up anyway to support Lopez.

A New Start, A New State

Brenda Tubbs is a quiet, gracious woman.

The native of north-Central Texas was only recently hired to lead the Quest senior projects and has lived in California for less than a year. Tubbs loves her profession and the Quest program, stating, “It’s the perfect job for me.”

She had a Bible Belt upbringing, with values for respect and good manners, something that has helped make her transition to California a smooth one.

In that span of time Tubbs has fallen in love with everything about her new life. She especially loves her new role and the community at Quest that have embraced her, citing the leadership of principal Alejandro Vega, assistant principal Cheryl Savio, and Dr. Wendolyn Nolasco, the new lead instructor at Quest. Tubbs cited the importance of change, the need to empower teachers and students in a way that helps students become more,”community minded, focused more beyond themselves.”

She also stresses the leadership skills that students develop, in addition to community service and public speaking skills.

Tubbs is asked how this entire year feels.

She takes a breath, sighs, then smiles and simply says, “I always wanted to live in California. I’m home.”

Happy Earth Day

The central question to Earth Day in 1970 was, how much more can Mother Earth take?

Then as now, the question remains unanswered. Despite the gloom and doom prognostications, with teachers like Brenda Tubbs and students like Lucas Lopez in our midst, it really is Happy Earth Day.

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