Happy Earth Day! Now Let’s Get Rid of It.

Instead, let’s celebrate the Earth EVERYDAY.

Every April 22 since 1970, hippies and nature lovers from around the country unite in a grassroots effort to remind everyone to love the Earth.

The goal of the first Earth Day was to shed some light on environmental issues of our lives and raise awareness. Back in 1970, this made sense, because environmental issues were not as noteworthy to citizens and politicians. At this point in our history, environmental protection is at the forefront of our worldly issues. Climate-change-related topics are in the newspaper daily.

Now, all we’re really doing on Earth Day is allowing people to pat each other on the backs for simply recycling. Or switching to paperless methods. Or using a (hopefully durable) reusable bag at the supermarket. While all these things are great, at this point, they should be common practice.

As Annie Leonard, creator of Story of Stuff, says, we should think of these practices the same way we think of tying our shoes – they’re just something we do.

Yes you can buy organic, yes you can stop buying bottled water, yes you can compost, yes you can get a clothes line. “These are all things that are very, very good to do but they’re not about working together for big, bold, collective, systemic change. They’re about changing our consumption habits and our day to day lifestyles… Of course we should be doing those things. But we really need to move from these individual consumer-oriented changes to these collective citizen engagements.” (Annie Leonard quote)

Sure, Earth Day gives schools a chance to go on field trips to nature reserves and communities to participate in park or stream clean-ups. But not even a week after Earth Day, the excitement about the Earth dissipates and we all go back to our normal routines, likely forgetting to turn off the lights or unplug electronics when they’re not in use.

Because we have a day (or week or month) specifically set out for the Earth, we feel as though we can take our home for granted for the next 364 days (or 51 weeks or 11 months). But this one day/week/month of celebration doesn’t address the real problems: increasing amount of greenhouse gas emissions, rising sea levels, disappearing forests and freshwater, mass extinctions, etc.

How does recycling and nature field trips help raise awareness about these problems? The truth is- they don’t.

To make significant environmental changes, we need to change public perception. If we continue to encourage people to celebrate the Earth every April 22, we’re giving them an out for the other 364 days of the year.

Let’s get rid of Earth Day, Earth Week, and Earth Month… and switch to Earth YEAR!

So start by taking Annie Leonard’s Citizen Muscle Boot Camp, or working with your neighbors to turn a vacant lot into a garden or to change laws to allow community garden CSAs to sell their food. Do something that makes a positive broad change… And keep using your reusable coffee mug!

 

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