by Marsha Rakestraw
Even though I’m grateful for America’s independence and all the good things about the U.S., the 4th of July is hard for me.
It has become a time of worry and fretting.
I worry about the impact of the noise and toxic pollution of fireworks on nonhuman animals, our veterans, and the earth. I worry about animals who might be harmed by the new ways we invent to harm them, like tennis ball bombs.
I worry about the workers, often women (and sometimes children), who face dangerous conditions to create these ephemeral products.
I fret about the waste generated, the child labor used to create the fireworks, the animals being eaten at all the BBQs and parties.
I fret that we’ve turned such an important and complex piece of our history into just another chance to blithely consume and create havoc.
July 4 needs to be about more than fireworks and fun, and we humans can enjoy ourselves while being mindful of the impact of our choices on others and the earth.
Here are a few recent must-read articles that can help us reflect and think more critically about how to celebrate this special holiday.
- “Don’t Be That Guy at the 4th of July Party” from Yes! Magazine highlights the impact of parties and fireworks on coastal ecosystems and offers tips for a more eco-friendly beach party.
- Every year Treehugger post a complaint about fireworks. This year’s article, “It’s Time for the Annual Whine About Fireworks, But With Fresh New Reasons,” includes a (mostly) compelling list of reasons to do without them, and a round-up of previous year’s posts.
- “Rethinking the 4th of July” by Bill Bigelow of Rethinking Schools reminds us of the importance of considering “how we equip students to reflect on the complicated birth of the United States of America.”
- Frederick Douglass’s speech (given in 1852), “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro”, prompts us to remember that many still lack the freedom we celebrate and that we have a long way to go in creating a just world.
- Animal guardians know the terrible toll fireworks can take on their animal companions. The Dodo offers a few tips for helping dogs scared of fireworks.
- And this article about the Albuquerque Zoo reminds us that animals in captivity have no way to protect themselves from the noise, pollution, and toxicity of fireworks.
Of course we should feel free to celebrate something as momentous as Independence Day. But as humane citizens there’s so much we can do to ensure that we’re celebrating in a way that maximizes our enjoyment and our reflection on the immensity of what July 4 means, while not causing harm to others.