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Randy Holladay is a former Louisa County High School earth science teacher. His guest column, On & Off Earth, is published once a month. 

April, once we get through any foolishness on day 1, quickly carries us much deeper into the joys and perils of spring. The eye-popping yellows of early-blooming forsythia and jonquils are soon replaced by the eye-watering yellow of tree pollen. The increasing sun angle and warmer days don’t require winter coats but do call for a layer of sunscreen. Plentiful rainfall has lawns greening, dogwood flowers about to burst open and trees ready to use a little biochemistry to turn that ground water and extra sunlight into a rich, green forest.

The water and warmth also means mosquitoes; ticks, too, are already out looking to you or your pet for their next meal. I haven’t seen any snakes yet, nor have I had the annual bear visit, but I know both are on the April agenda.

Also, coming soon, a second shot of the Moderna vaccine. Though signed up early, it was actually a bit of serendipity that led me to my first dose three weeks ago. I’m joined by over three million others per day, all looking to protect ourselves, our families and our friends and neighbors. The vaccine seemed only logical; there’s still a pandemic going on and I am a child of vaccination.

Born in the middle of the Baby Boom, myself and my fellow Boomers owe a good bit of our longevity and general good health to the medical miracle of vaccines. We were really the first vaccine generation. Diseases that had maimed or killed millions, polio, smallpox, diphtheria and whooping cough, simply went away in the U.S. because of vaccines. A tetanus shot guaranteed that a scratch on the arm wouldn’t lead to death by lockjaw. Modern, science-based medicine, with new diagnostic tools and drugs, have saved millions of lives during my lifetime.

Edward Jenner’s discovery of a smallpox vaccine in 1798 and Louis Pasteur’s for rabies in the late 1800s, didn’t solve the problems completely and immediately but moved medicine in the right direction. A breakthrough in the speed and volume of polio vaccine production in 1949 allowed me and my fellow Boomers to be vaccinated as small children and never know the killing diseases of the past. The timelines for vaccine development and production have steadily decreased, setting a new but not surprising record for both speed and efficacy to battle this current pandemic.

So, I am a little perplexed as to why, in a country that wants a pill to fix whatever ails it, where we receive our TV signals from satellites in space and where we all have a powerful computer in our hand or pocket, anyone wouldn’t get a science-based, well-tested vaccine to return the world to safer, more normal times.

Off Earth, well beyond our satellites, the winter constellations, with Mars still among them, are setting earlier each night, replaced by the less flashy stars of spring. Jupiter and Saturn are the brightest “stars” in the pre-dawn sky, while Venus remains hidden behind the sun until very late in the month. The Full “Pink” Moon is late on the 26th. The sun slides from Pisces into Aries on the 20th.

For the last 51 years, on April 22, we earthlings have stopped to remember, that while it can be perilous, Earth is our only home and still full of beauty, wonder and joy. Get out for an April  walk on your world and then do whatever small part you can to reduce the perils and increase the joys for yourself today and for generations yet to come.

Randy Holladay is a former Louisa County High School earth science teacher. He can be reached at oldrockguy@gmail.com.

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