We have a lot to celebrate in Camas-Washougal this Earth Day

For anyone even slightly concerned about future generations and what we can do now to protect the environment for our children and grandchildren, it’s hard to avoid being overwhelmed by catastrophically bad news.

As news stories pointed out just this week: climate change is killing the “once abundant” woodpecker; endangering ecosystems, agriculture and human health in America’s Midwestern states; shifting whale migrations; forcing farmers to abandon their land in Chile; threatening the future livability of major cities; and even putting our savings at risk

The constant flood of negative environmental news is having an effect on our collective psyches. A 2020 poll by the American Psychiatric Association showed more than two-thirds of Americans are “somewhat or extremely anxious about the impact of climate change on the planet” and more than half are “somewhat or extremely anxious about the impact of climate change on their own mental health.” 

Even mental health professionals are having a tough time coping with “the growing number of people anxious about the climate emergency,” as an article published in Scientific American magazine this week points out.

The good news? Well, the good news is that there is good news about the environment — you just have to dig a little deeper to find it. 

As we celebrate Earth Day this week — and send a collective “thank you” to Camas native Denis Hayes, who coordinated that first Earth Day back in 1970 — we want to point out a couple “good news” things happening on the environmental front right here at home. 

The first is featured on this week’s front page: a coordinated, multi-agency effort to address pollution in Camas’ beautiful Lacamas, Round and Fallen Leaf lakes. 

Many Camas residents only noticed something was amiss in 2020, after toxic algae bloom warning signs popped up around Lacamas Lake throughout the entire spring, summer and fall recreational seasons, but the harmful algae isn’t the only problem threatening the health of Camas’ “crown jewel” lake. As state Department of Ecology staff pointed out this week, there are likely plenty of pollutants streaming into the 67-square-mile Lacamas Creek watershed, which winds its way through agricultural, industrial, commercial and residential lands before flowing into Lacamas Lake. 

The good news? Ecology, along with its partners in Camas and Clark County, is ready to find the pollutants flowing into the watershed and work with landowners to find a solution. The process will take time, of course, but Ecology should have a Water Cleanup Plan ready to focus on implementing pollution fixes by May 2023, and the project will go a long way toward ensuring the long-term health of Lacamas Lake and the entire Lacamas Creek watershed. 

Likewise, the city of Camas’ efforts to build a lake management plan for its Lacamas, Round and Fallen Leaf lakes will help figure out where pollutants are directly discharging into the lakes and address short- and long-term solutions. 

As city officials and staff in Camas have pointed out, nursing Lacamas Lake back to health will not happen overnight. Indeed, it may take years or more than a decade to clean the lake’s pollution and prevent the “near-continual” toxic algae blooms that have cropped up over the past couple years. But the efforts on the part of the city of Camas and the state are a powerful first step toward cleaning Camas’ lakes and ensuring a healthier environment for all Camas residents. 

The second piece of good news — the fact that the state’s Ecology department is beginning its investigation into pollutants at the Georgia-Pacific paper and former pulp mill in downtown Camas — is another “first step,” but will also go a long way toward creating a healthier environment in this part of Southwest Washington. 

And if you’re interested in hearing more of this local, “good environmental news,” stay tuned — we will have more information about Ecology’s soon-to-begin work finding and clearing toxins from the Camas mill site in next week’s Post-Record. 

Until then, visit earthday.org/earth-day-2021 to learn more about what youth, educators and the Hip Hop Caucus are doing to fight climate change and ensure a healthier future for our planet.