April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day…or Not!

Center for a Livable Future

Center for a Livable Future

While today reminds us of the environmental challenges we face nationally and globally, it isn’t the only day where we should be concerned about our impact on the Earth (and in turn, how our actions affect the environment and our health).

Earth Day should be about raising awareness of what we are doing every day and how to make meaningful changes, not about “greenwashing” or giving lip service to environmental issues.

Grist, the online environmental magazine, posted a series on whether Earth Day still matters-with several essays on both sides (and a tongue-in-cheek campaign called Screw Earth Day). The self-proclaimed cynical view calls the day “an empty gesture,” and says few people care enough to even make small changes in their daily lives. Then the author turns a bit less cynical and details how we can reclaim the day by doing something that actually matters.

One problem is that all too often, the convenient or normal way we go about our lives is inefficient and wasteful. As the Sustainable Food blog pointed out: “All the rest of the year, nearly everywhere except special events or demonstration projects, we live in a grinding clockwork of unfathomable waste. It’s easier to waste. It’s cheaper to waste. It’s more normal to waste. It makes more sense to waste as we go about our daily lives.”

Back to Grist’s series-the other side of the debate argues that Earth Day is more important now than ever, and that widespread cooperation and public support of environmental action is just what we need.

What do you think? Does Earth Day still have an important purpose? How can advocates reclaim the day and make sure it perpetuates real action and not just “ecobabble”?

For more information on Earth Day:

Earth Day Network and the federal government’s official Earth Day website offer ideas for individuals and communities to help protect Mother Nature.

If you live in the Baltimore area, check out the Baltimore City Office of Sustainability’s website and Baltidome, a local “green guide.”

If you live elsewhere, research what your community is doing to reduce its environmental impact. If possible, ask questions, get involved, and make suggestions to leaders.

-Patti Truant

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