After spending most of the weekend in Los Angeles, a friend and I drove back into Ventura on Sunday evening. At about 5:30 p.m., we cruised through Newbury Park heading north on the 101 Freeway. It had a been a beautiful two days — a little rain on Saturday morning, but other than that, the perfect preview of the summer months stretching out before us.

Still, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw when we hit the top of the Conejo grade. Maybe it was the unbelievably clear weather or maybe it was the fact that I haven’t driven down the grade in a while; whatever it was, the view of Ventura County from that vantage point left me awestruck. It was absolutely brilliant — the green hills, the farmland, the crisp blue sky, the billowy white clouds in the distance, the ocean shimmering like glass.

And I had the thought that I have quite often: We live in an unbelievably beautiful place.

April 22nd is Earth Day. Some might argue that it’s a sort of arbitrary holiday — the thought being that every day should be Earth Day, just like the argument that you should do wonderful things for your loved ones every day, not just on Valentine’s Day. Still, for those who take the environment seriously, and everyone should (if you don’t think so, read our feature story this week on page 14), it is nice to have a day where people who might not normally think about the earth are forced to, if only briefly.

Because we are at a true crossroads when it comes to our environment. Global warming isn’t a theory anymore; it’s a fact backed by scientific evidence. Our oceans have become so polluted that it’s best to keep a prescription of antibiotics on hand if you want to take a swim. The air quality in California, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, is almost the worst in the nation, second only to New York. Because of that, residents of Los Angeles and Orange counties are being exposed to a cancer risk that is about twice the national average

This is bad for us … and it’s going to be really bad for our children, unless we change our bad habits.

Earth Day is an opportunity for everyone to take a look at the way they treat the environment on a day to day basis. What kind of products do you buy in the grocery store? Organic? And is the grocery store around the corner from your home? Did you drive your SUV there or did you walk? And did you turn off all the lights in your home when you left? And will you recycle that milk carton when you’re done with it?

At the very least — even if you don’t recycle, if you think hybrid cars are for sissies, if you like to toss your garbage out the window while you’re flying down the freeway — at the very least, take a moment on Earth Day and appreciate the view.