Here in the States, we celebrate the 4th of July for the decolonization of America from European rule. But decolonization can take many forms, and I think its time to decolonize our minds. I am sympathetic to those who are offended when traditions and customs are questioned. But if a celebration is harmful, shouldn’t we change it?
Here’s why I believe we should rethink the 4th of July
More companion animals are separated from their homes on the 4th than any other night of the year.
Animals that live outdoors will run away from home in search of a “safe” place in response to the loud fireworks. Between July 4–6, there is a tragic 30% increase of lost animals occurs between July 4-6 here in America. And if you are still not convinced, ask your local animal shelter about their intake rates during the week of the 4th.
How we can help
- Raise awareness within your social circles about keeping animals safely indoors during this time of year. Advise others to walk their dogs early in the day. And keep windows and doors shut to help with noise. Purchasing black-out curtains which offer noise reduction is another option.
- If you know someone who has animals that cannot be kept indoors, emphasize the importance of an ID tag on their collar. Or better yet, a micro-chip.
- If your animal suffers from anxiety from the fireworks, consider getting them a “Thunder Shirt.” My dog Nitro has one!
- If you’re willing to skip out on the holiday fun, stay home and offer to help care for other people’s animals while they go out. Also, you could patrol your local neighborhood for lost animals who need help.
Folks with PTSD and anxiety disorders suffer on the 4th of July
Victims of gun violence, veterans of the armed forces and others predisposed to anxiety can experience an aggravation of symptoms this time of year. To these people, the loud bangs of fireworks are the antithesis to a relaxing evening. According to the DSM-5, the symptoms associated with PTSD/Anxiety can include heightened reactions, agitation, shortness of breath, insomnia, and nightmares.
How we can help
- Think about the range of symptoms above, and ask yourself: Would I feel good knowing I caused someone distress like that? Raise awareness in your social circles about the negative impact fireworks can have on certain folks and ask them the same question.
- Advocate for quiet fireworks, such as sparklers or fountains.
- If you plan on going to a fireworks celebration, ensure that state and federal regulations are being followed.
- If you or someone you know plans to host an event at home, talk with your/their neighbors about the plans. People will be grateful for your consideration.
Fireworks are bad for the environment
Fireworks cause extensive air pollution and leech heavy metals and toxins into the air. Fallen debris pollutes the environment and waste from the fireworks overwhelm landfills. And it’s human activity causing climate change because we cause chemical changes in the air. In 2016, India’s annual celebration Diwali “Festival of Lights” caused such thick air pollution from the fireworks display that some local schools had to close. Fireworks contain charcoal-based fuels alongside myriad metal compounds. And we are putting that directly into the air that we breathe. During a climate crisis.
Furthermore, the noise pollution from the fireworks is devastating for wildlife. Manmade noise disrupts the reproduction and body mass of all kinds of animals from migratory birds to marine mammals. Is it worth weakening and in some cases, killing wildlife just for a night of fun?
How we can help
- Advocate for a celebration without fireworks! Spend time with loved ones, reconnect with nature and grill some plant-based foods. Or whatever you want! Make it your own.
- Help raise awareness online regarding how harmful fireworks are for the planet. Likewise, you could make comments that get people thinking, such as “The fireworks are pretty, but have you ever thought about all that smoke?”
- Consider starting or signing a local petition which would limit/prohibit fireworks in your area. Express your concerns to your local government officials. It may not be a popular opinion, but the planet can’t advocate for itself!
What do you think about decolonizing the holiday?
Also by R. Coker: I’ve Been Boycotting Amazon All Year. Here’s How I Make It Work
Why Afrofuturism Can Help Us All Right Now
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Photo: Kal Visuals via Unsplash