Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Environmentlists and Earth Day? Not so perfect together anymore.

In what I think is mostly a reaction to companies trying to hijack Earth Day to tout their “greenness,” many environmentalists are having an adverse reaction to Earth Day.

Ding. Right after typing that sentence my computer let me know I had a new e-mail. It was from our friend Adam of Twilight Earth alerting me to his latest post. Amazing timing.

Here’s what Adam has to say at the beginning of his post today,
Earth Day - Celebration, Gimmick or Eco Guilt Forgiveness Day?

Twilight Earth isn’t about gimmicks, dog and pony shows or green-washing. It’s for this reason that we almost decided to boycott Earth Day, by not writing an article about it.

Believe me, we’ve had a lot of time to think about it. Leading up to today, we’ve received over 300 Earth Day related E-mails, press releases and requests to write articles. The sheer volume of Earth Day related hoopla is what gave us pause.

I’m afraid that the reason I don’t really care for Earth Day is that it has become another gimmick. Another way for corporate sponsors to peddle their wares and another way to make up for our environmental sins. It has also become a day where politicians can grab some green spotlight and pass environmentally friendly legislation.

Believe me, Adam, I get it. I've gotten those same 300 Earth Day related e-mails, perhaps more. Some of them have been downright insulting like the one that asked me to write about the first flavored bottled water to receive USDA organic status. Organic bottled water!!!!

Adam is by far, not the only one jaded this year by what in the past has been the environmental movements big day. Grist has a
"Screw Earth Day" campaign. Even my colleague Shae Gunther over on MNN wrote a tongue in cheek piece making fun of the one day a year efforts.

The fact of the matter is that for those of us who are involved in earth matters day in and day out, it is disheartening to see Earth Day becoming a corporate media day of hoopla. But for those who aren't involved day in and day out, I think it's still an important day. Here's why.
  1. Education happens in schools. Teachers rally around this day, around this week, using it to get in a few extra environmental lessons. When I ran the book fair last month at the school, the teachers were snatching up the few books on Global Warming and recycling for kids that were offered saying they were going to use them on Earth Day. Teachers aren't telling kids about organic bottled water or the fact that Macy's will give you 10% off all your purchases if you donate to an earthy cause. They are teaching the kids how to care for the earth today.
  2. Communities come together. Last Sunday, lots of families in my town that aren't involved day in and day out with earth matters came together to do clean up around the town. My Facebook account has pictures from my friends from town cleaning up parks and ballfields. Will this ultimately help the earth. Not really, but it will get people thinking about things.
  3. Seeds are planted - literally and figuratively. Yesterday, I spoke to a moms group on "thinking about food." I gave a small lecture on how our food choices effect the environment and then gave them a list of things to choose from that could make a difference. I had a lot of moms come up to me after and tell me that they had never thought about the information I gave them before but they were going to choose one thing from my list. I have no doubt that a few of those moms will learn more about this on their own. After my talk, the group planted herb seeds in recycled containers as a way to easily grow some of their own food. I know I'm not the only person speaking to groups across the country this week about environmental things and while not every person who hears talks this week will be changed, many will.
For those of us who live by the mantra "every day is Earth Day" maybe today isn't going to be any different from any other day. To be honest, my family didn't take part in our community Earth Day activities on Sunday. We weren't boycotting them; we just chose to do something else that day. And today, well I'm writing about earth matters - but I do that every day. Stumble Upon Toolbar

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