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The Need For An Environmental Olympics
Marilyn Dinger Marilyndin@aol.com

Have you ever wondered what the colors in the five Olympic rings stand for? I am only going to mention one ring -- the Green Ring. Quite a journey in my life has brought me to this point. I have always wanted to carry the Olympic torch, but I'm short in stature, not much of a runner, and my mother reminded me of my phobia of fire which I do admit I have.

But as a very young adult woman with my parents and brother in Redwood National Park I did run fast once in my life similar to hitting my one and only home run at a baseball game I played at a college outing. This is funny, but the race of my life was to run from a Roosevelt bull elk that I got too close to as I tried to get a picture of those trophy antlers during the rutting season. I won that race, but it was not an easy one. I won before the Superintendent of the Park could reach me to give me a warning or a citation for getting too close to a dangerous wild animal. I also won that race because I reached the base of a large redwood tree that discouraged the angry bull elk from pursuing me further. I may not have won the Gold, but I won one for the Green because I saved my own life and also the life of the elk, but not without wondering if my heart would pound out of my chest or if I would never be able to catch my breath again.

I live in Utah where we are just wrapping up the Salt Lake Winter Olympics. Although not much of a sports fan, I watched some of the figure skating where the skating was beautiful! But as exciting as the Olympics is for many people, more should come out of it than just an athletic contest and winning a medal. I suggest An Environmental Olympics held the year following each season of the Summer Olympics. If the Olympics means that we should strive for excellence on a world basis, we should also excel equally well in our striving to protect our environment, upon which all of our lives depend! We should go for the Green, not the green of greed (any more than we should go for the gold of greed), but for a greener, more life-sustaining planet we call earth.

The Environmental Olympics would not require athletic excellence, although both athletes and environmentalists would qualify to carry the Olympic torch. Instead, contestants would be awarded the gold (or if possible, the green medal) in the following categories:

1- Environmental Activism (both in the field and in sending letters of support for environmental causes);
2- Human Rights activism;
3- Literary excellence and achievement in advocating protecting, restoring, or preserving the natural world which means wild places; wildfire habitat, and the wildlife itself;
4- Politicians, including the leaders of nations, states, and provinces, who are strong environmental advocates;
5- Celebrities who are strong in environmental advocacy
6- Religious leaders who believe in protecting both the environment and natural world for future generations, and
7- Nations that do the best job of protecting and restoring the natural environment and a livable planet.

It would probably not be necessary to prolong the event for two weeks. Probably three days would be enough. The Olympic caldron would still be lit by the Olympic torch starting in Greece and ending in an appropriate world location of choice. There would be opening and closing ceremonies just as spectacular as for the athletic Olympics and also prime time television networks would host the events, but instead of games there would be three nights of awards ceremonies and recognition in one or two venues in the location of choice similar to the athletic Olympics.

There is a definite need for the Environmental Olympics because if we (the whole human race) were perfect stewards of the environment there would be no war or man's inhumanity to man. It is being proven that the nations that do the best job of protecting the environment also do the best job with human rights and man's humanity to man. I've always wondered why I want to travel to Sweden, Norway, or Switzerland, for instance. All of these and a few other nations now surpass the United States in taking good care of the environment. But the Environmental Olympics would also put a new emphasis on being colorblind in regard to race, celebrating our diversity and our differences rather than practicing prejudice and hate, and ending religious fanaticism.

In order to accomplish that, the winners would be among those who have achieved excellence in environmental advocacy and have not dropped the ball but who continue to fight for a livable and healthy environment. If they win, we all win. On the other hand, those who have dropped out of the race to protect our environment not only are losers themselves, but they make us all the losers. Until we live in a world where everyone values a healthy environment and nature at its best in a natural world at the state of excellence in which it was created with natural processes as boss, we will never reach the finish line. But we must keep on striving. We must never abdicate our responsibility of caring for the earth that serves life-support system for all of us.

We need to start by celebrating the Environmental Olympians of at least the last thirty years. If I've learned anything at all by having the Olympics in my own backyard, I've learned that it is time to celebrate life rather than advocate for or prevaricate about death. It is time to celebrate diversity and biodiversity rather than monoculture. It is time to celebrate the future rather than the here and now. It is time to celebrate goodwill rather than greed. It is time to celebrate sustainability rather than boom-and-bust both economically as well as environmentally. Going for the Green actually has nothing to do with gold or money. Going for the Green truly has everything to do with a more livable world now and for the rest of time.