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A Post NOT About Earth Day I Want You To Read

on | in Everything Else | by | with 11 Comments

Okay, I Lied

And it was probably totally unnecessary, too, because you are the kind of person who cares about the planet and actually plans to read all the Earth Day posts coming out this weekend. But me? I usually skip them. It’s not that I don’t care, but at the ripe old age of 26 (again with the lying, someone slap me!) I find myself wondering if there is any more to Earth Day than free cups of coffee for bringing in a reusable mug, tote bags and bright green awareness bracelets. So I sort of lied . . . but not really . . . because actually I’m writing about YOU.

And the earth.

But mostly you. Let’s talk about the Earth first, though, okay?

Now where were we? Oh yeah, I’m not against swag. It’s pretty great stuff (mostly). And I actually use my tote bags, so there’s that.  But have we let Earth Day become a PR opportunity for companies to tell us how much they care? And if so, do we believe them? One more question:  Is there some wisdom in the old Cree Indian proverb, which says that:

“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money”

~ Cree Indian Proverb

Not on my watch. And if I’m right about you, not on yours either.

Earth Day Is Not About . . .

Corporations and government convincing us they care, it’s about us telling them we do! It always has been.

Earth Day 1970 - Protesters walked the streets wearing gas masks to protest air quality

By 1969, concerns over DDT, an oil spill of the Santa Barbara coast, and a river catching fire in Ohio had all contributed to a growing outrage amongst Americans about the way that the environment was being compromised by industry. Here’s an excerpt from a front page New York Times article that year:

“Rising concern about the “environmental crisis” is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam…a national day of observance of environmental problems, analogous to the mass demonstrations on Vietnam, is being planned for next spring, when a nationwide environmental ‘teach-in’…coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned …”

And we all know what happened next: Nelson’s ‘teach-in’ spread quickly, and 20 million Americans — one in five Americans at that point — took to the streets to demand change. The first Earth Day, held in 1970, was loud, raucous, and purposeful.¹ (emphasis mine)

It worked, ya’ll. “The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.”²

If you think about it, what they accomplished is basically like winning a Nintendo championship with two broken thumbs. They had no internet to distribute information, no cell phones to coordinate protests and upload press photos in real time, no voice. But they did it anyway, and so can we.

I’m Not Going To Give You A List . . .

Of things to do here. Because honestly, the point of this whole post is that you ARE doing so many things that make a difference. This is YOUR day, so own it! Share your knowledge! Facebook is great because you can gently educate without overwhelming people (they can choose whether they sip or gulp the info you share), but real life convos are important to. Maybe take a minute to tell your congressmen about the issues that matter to you (It’s so easy now! Two clicks and you’re done!), or buy this DVD which launched on Amazon today and host a viewing party.

Speak up, mama. I don’t think they’ve heard us yet.

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

- Native American Proverb

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11 Responses to A Post NOT About Earth Day I Want You To Read

  1. A. B. says:

    I love the idea of people taking responsibility and acting as good stewards. However, I DETEST all the silly rules and regulations (like taxing cows for the methane gas they create in Britain) that come under the heading of “environmental conservation.” People were living green before the industrial revolution and nobody even thought about . It’s gonna be a lot more tricky in today’s world, but the phoniness and – often times – hypocrisy of earth day drives me nuts.

    • Heather says:

      Oh A.B., you always leave the most thought provoking comments! You are completely right that it is possible to create silly, even harmful, rules in the name of environmentalism. The methane thing is especially annoying because it’s completely misguided. As Joel Salatin recently wrote in a letter to the New York Times:

      “The recent editorial by James McWilliams, titled “The Myth of Sustainable Meat,” [April 13, NYT] contains enough factual errors and skewed assumptions to fill a book, and normally I would dismiss this out of hand as too much nonsense to merit a response. But since it specifically mentioned Polyface, a rebuttal is appropriate. For a more comprehensive rebuttal, read the book Folks, This Ain’t Normal.Let’s go point by point. First, that grass-grazing cows emit more methane than grain-fed ones. This is factually false. Actually, the amount of methane emitted by fermentation is the same whether it occurs in the cow or outside. Whether the feed is eaten by an herbivore or left to rot on its own, the methane generated is identical. Wetlands emit some 95 percent of all methane in the world; herbivores are insignificant enough to not even merit consideration. Anyone who really wants to stop methane needs to start draining wetlands. Quick, or we’ll all perish. I assume he’s figuring that since it takes longer to grow a beef on grass than on grain, the difference in time adds days to the emissions. But grain production carries a host of maladies far worse than methane. This is simply cherry-picking one negative out of many positives to smear the foundation of how soil builds: herbivore pruning, perennial disturbance-rest cycles, solar-grown biomass, and decomposition. This is like demonizing marriage because a good one will include some arguments.As for his notion that it takes too much land to grass-finish, his figures of 10 acres per animal are assuming the current normal mismanagement of pastures.”

      Deciding to tax cow farts is like taking going someone heading the ER for painkillers when they’ve broken their leg. It **might** help with the symptoms, but it’s not a solution. I believe solutions will come when – as you said – we remember that the old ways of living inherently green and make an effort to embrace them in modern ways.

  2. A. B. says:

    Thanks for the compliment – your posts are very thought provoking (-: And that is really interesting about the wetlands. I’ll have to bring that up during my “Is raising meat sustainable?” debates!

  3. Alexis D says:

    Simply put: every day should be Earth Day and caring about the Earth! That last quote (Native American Proverb) reminds of what I often think – what is the world going to be like for our children when they get older? Definitely makes you want to take action today (like now! haha) for their sake!

    • Heather says:

      Yes, exactly! You know, when Katie it completely changed the way I looked at the world. One week all I can think about is getting my pre-baby figure back and the next I want to help dig wells in Africa, volunteer at a women’s shelter, and send money for cleft palate correction in South America. I actually started ALL those projects in the first few weeks she was born, and then got completely engulfed in the huge responsibility of being a mother. For years I did nothing because I thought my piddly little efforts couldn’t **really** make a difference, but I was WRONG!

      It’s really the little things we do that make a difference: The way we vote with our dollars and share our passion for sustainability with friends and neighbors by inviting them over for a locally-sourced meal. Or growing a garden with our sustainability experts in training! :)

  4. Beth says:

    Hmmm, I always thought Earth Day was a purely commercial thing. It’s cool to know it has legit roots!

  5. Pascha says:

    “Corporations and government convincing us they care, it’s about us telling them we do!” Loved that, and also the quote at the end. Thank you.

  6. Kerri says:

    I am planting a square foot garden today with my kids. Yay, Earth Day!

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