As we head into Earth Day weekend, the usual environmental frenzy continues to unfold and we are admonished ad nauseum to “go green”. I don’t know about you, but I’m really getting tired of it. And as the whole Earth Day / Earth Hour / Earth Week, and the whole associated “green” movement explodes in rampant growth, I wonder more and more about whether the whole concept has lost it’s value.
These days it’s almost sacrilegious to question anything that is seemingly even remotely environmentally motivated. But with all the hype and spin on Earth Day and the like, I wonder if the whole concept behind the movement — the meaning and the heart of the idea — has actually been left behind in the rush to pick up the trend.
The History of Earth Day
Earth Day, of course, is celebrated every year on April 22. It’s the day where we are supposed to think environmentally friendly thoughts and go out and do something “green”: Plant a tree. Paint a picture of the globe. Pick up garbage in our neighbourhood. That sort of thing.
According to the Earth Day Canada web site, Earth Day was first launched as an environmental awareness event in the United States in 1970, and is celebrated as the birth of the environmental movement. It become an international thing in 1990.
So what’s my issue with Earth Day?
Earth Day annoys me. Earth Hour annoys me even more. Why? Maybe I’m just jaded, but it seems to me that this whole thing has become a little too trendy, and I think people buy into it because it’s “the thing to do”, without actually thinking about, or even caringabout, the reasons behind it. And it’s become something where people go out and participate in an activity and then that’s it. They’ve done their environmentally friendly bit for the year; they’ve “done their part”. And then they go right back to doing all the environmentally-unfriendly stuff they usually do.
Greenwashing has overshadowed the environmental movement
I wonder sometimes whether the whole environmental movement has been turned into a great big publicity stunt. All show, and no substance. Everythings is going “green” these days. Every major brand now seems to have an ”earth-friendly” sticker on it. I walk into buildings downtown and they’ve got posters up proclaiming their green-ness. There are web sites where you can and measure your “eco-footprint”. It’s endless.
And with rampant greenwashing at every turn, is there any real “green” stuff left out there? How are you supposed to tell the “real” stuff from the fake “doesn’t really accomplish anything but, damn, it sounds good in the press” stuff?
Greenwashing… is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s aims and policies are environmentally friendly. (From Wikipedia)
Case in point: Cloth diapers. When my first child was born, I was really into the whole concept of cloth diapers at first and even went out and bought a whole bunch ‘cause I wanted to do the “right”, environmentally friendly thing. But do you have any idea how much water you need to use when cleaning diapers? Most cloth diaper experts recommend a soak, a pre-wash, a soap wash, and then at leasttwo rinses, all in hot water! I usually just did a hot water soap wash and two cold rinses. But still, it dawned on me that I wasn’t sure which was worse for the environment – disposable diapers in a landfill, or the vast amounts of energy being used to heat the water and run the washing machine and the dryer, not to mention the huge amounts of potable water being contaminated with soap and poop that were, eventually, going to end up right back in the river we get our drinking water from. And I still don’t know the answer to that question — what is better for the environment?
Another case in point: the insane amount of junk mail that I get every week, most of which is stamped as being environmentally friendly just because it’s made from partially reccyled paper fibres or because it’s printed in “organic” inks. It’s still junk and it’s still a waste of paper in my books.
What Earth Day means to me
If we were really thinking about our planet, we wouldn’t need a special week for neighbourhood garbage cleanup every spring, because we wouldn’t be throwing our garbage into the snow piles all winter, or leaving dog poop lying around because we’re too lazy to clean up after our pets. We wouldn’t make a big deal out of turning our lights off for an hour, because we’d be conserving energy throughout the year. We wouldn’t have municipal bylaws that restrict the use of “unsightly” clothes lines in suburban neighbourhoods, because everyone would understand the wisdom of letting the sun and wind take care of drying the laundry. If we were really thinking about and caring about the environment, we wouldn’t need any of these things because every day would be “Earth Day”.
Earth Day, to me, is not meant to be a one-day frenzy of false environmentalism. To me, Earth Day is meant to be a day to celebrate our connection with this planet we live on, and to remember the interconnectedness of all things. It’s a day to reflect upon our role in this network of energy and life; a day to really express our gratitude for and appreciation of this network and all it gives us; and a day to celebrate the Earth itself. It’s a culmination of an entire year of care and thought and love, and, as such, it should be celebrated. Just not, perhaps, in the way that it currently is.
My Earth Day plans
This Sunday, Earth Day, I will continue to do all the things I usually do: I will continue to use my cloth bags when I buy groceries; I will continue collecting kitchen scraps for my backyard composter; and I will continue recycling and conserving energy whenever I can. Weather permitting, I will probably also start working on a new flower garden this weekend, too. In other words, I will continue on with my life as per normal.
But I will also take the time to go outside and take a deep breath. I will look around me and feel my connection to everything that surrounds me, and I will say “thank you”. Thank you to the Earth, thank you to Source and All That Is. Thank you for the air that I breathe, and the colours of the world that I see. Thank you for the water I drink and the food that I eat. Thank you for the creatures in my garden and the flowers that grow. Thank you for the people who add their own diversity and creative power to this place that I am in.
Thank you. For everything.
Oh, and Happy Earth Day, too.
How will you be celebrating Earth Day?
If you would like more information about Earth Day, you can find lots of information in this Wikipedia article.