- Associated Press - Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Journal Tribune of Biddeford (Maine), April 24, 2014

Earth Day does not have a long history, having only begun on April 22, 1970. In that short time, however, the day and the movement behind it have helped change the public perception of how the human race should interact with our planet.

Change has come so swiftly since that first Earth Day that it’s easy for younger people to assume things were always this way. The Clean Air and Clean Water acts, as well as the Endangered Species Act, came soon after that monumental day, and since then, environmental activism has gone mainstream.

Gone are the days when those who care about the planet’s health were derided and dismissed as “tree-hugging hippies” or extremists. From schoolchildren to senior citizens, we now all know the importance of doing our part to protect our environment, from recycling our waste to reducing our carbon emissions.

“Going green” is everywhere nowadays, with homeowners installing more energy-efficient heating and insulation systems, and motorists buying hybrid or fully electric cars. Most cities have invested in curbside recycling programs to encourage people to decrease their waste output, and goods with recycled content are on offer at most stores.

Climate change is a real threat, and it’s coming home to roost in the extreme weather events we’ve seen recently, such as Superstorm Sandy. If ever there were a time to embrace wise environmental stewardship, it’s now.

Like many special days that we recognize, Earth Day is meant to be a reminder and give a boost to our efforts - not to be the only day we give any thought to our environment. Indeed, we must all be vigilant every day to do the little efforts, such as picking up litter, and to raise our voice for the big issues that impact our world, too, such as supporting clean energy or regulations for our fisheries.

Earth Day’s success serves as a reminder that a small movement can bring worldwide improvements. It’s inspiring to know that we all make a difference in keeping the planet healthy and hospitable, not only for humans but for all living things.

We’d like to applaud those who took part in official Earth Day celebrations on April 22, such as the Saco Heath cleanup and the survey of emerald ash borers in Yarmouth, for doing their part. There are still plenty of formal and informal opportunities coming up to make our planet a better place: The Scarborough Marsh, a unique habitat just a few miles away, is hosting its annual spring cleanup this Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. The Maine Audubon Society is seeking volunteers to help monitor road crossings in parts of York and Cumberland counties, where endangered species are facing hazards. Volunteers will be trained and then adopt a one-mile section of a roadway to monitor eight times during the summer. Also, in Wells, the Conservation Commission is selling home compost bins for half price through the town clerk’s office.

For those who can’t commit to these activities, smaller steps can be taken, such as picking up litter and reminding others not to litter; consolidating errands or using public transportation to reduce carbon emissions; recycling paper, plastic, metal and glass and composting food waste; voting for environmentally responsible candidates and legislation; purchasing locally grown foods and patronizing restaurants that do the same; and properly disposing of electronic items and batteries.

We are all a part of this planet and responsible for keeping it clean and healthy for future generations, on Earth Day and every day.

The Telegram & Gazette of Worcester (Mass.), April 25, 2014

The U.S. and European responses to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and military aggressive in eastern Ukraine are limited and unlikely to force a reversal of Kremlin policy anytime soon. The unraveling of a none-too-useful agreement reached last week suggests matters may get worse in the days and weeks ahead.

But what diplomacy cannot achieve, economic realities might.

According to the Central Bank of Russia, $51 billion in capital has left Russia in the first three months of this year. Russia expects to see economic growth of just 1 percent in 2014, and the World Bank says Russia could see a 2 percent reduction in growth.

According to the New York Times, conditions in Crimea have deteriorated since the Russian takeover, with banks closed, long waits to obtain passports, cuts in food imports, and a nightmare of rules and regulations as Ukrainians are forced to revamp licenses, insurance, and more.

The change in Crimea - sudden, unchanged, and divisive - may serve the geopolitical goals and ego of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has orchestrated the annexation and the undermining of Ukrainian authority in several of that nation’s eastern cities.

But even Putin may not appreciate how dangerous his war games are to Russia itself. An already high price could become catastrophic should Putin’s subversion tip Ukraine into a full civil war.

The U.S. and Europe may not hold any trump cards in this Cold War replay, but they may not need any. The world has grown more economically integrated since the fall of the Soviet Union, and Russia may be more vulnerable than its tanks, AK-47s, and special forces suggest.

The cost of satisfying Putin’s ambitions may yet prove too high - even for Putin.

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