In honor of Earth Day 1991, we offer two essays: One fairly cosmic in scope and somewhat pessimistic -- from the point of view of us humans anyway ("World Without End?") -- the other, lively, personal and upbeat ("Back to Recycling"). Think Globally, Act Locally, as the slogan goes.
There wasn't one thing I could disagree with in the slogan or either of our essays -- if someone hadn't given me a slim little volume by William McKibben called "The End of Nature." I recommend it to anyone who likes to get emotionally involved in questions like Can This Earth Be Saved? Once you've read it you'll never feel the same about global warming or chlorofluorocarbons again. And even recycling and energy conservation will seem problematic.
But when you have a 12-year-old who can tell you the hole in the ozone is as big as Europe when you thought it was maybe the size of a football field, who goes through the trash behind your back and points out that you've thrown out a plastic container labeled "2" on the bottom that should have been recycled, it's hard to feel too pessimistic. Maybe her generation can do better than ours has taking care of the Earth.