Why Earth Day makes me cringe

Alright, let’s not beat around the bush. It doesn’t just make me cringe: I hate Earth Day.

Every year we have this ritualised set of photo-and-sponsorship opportunities, in which every politician and every company wants to reassure us that they care deeply about the Earth and we are supposed to be impressed. But what happens the rest of the year? It’s as if I only phoned my mum on Mothers’ Day, and then tried to pretend I was anything but a terrible son.

I think this one went out of bounds by eldan, on Flickr

Having a designated Earth Day seems to reinforce the message that there’s this “environment” box, that can be safely detached from the rest of our lives, and as long we pay our respects from time to time it’ll all be OK. But it’s a bit like having an annual “Yay breathing” day: we still need to breathe through the rest of the year, and we still need not to be fouling our own nest.

The Haul by eldan, on Flickr

Now if either Earth Day or the awareness it’s supposed to raise were new things I’d be inclined to be patient. But this event is older than me, and we just don’t have the time to be messing around with empty gestures like this.

If you want to make something meaningful of this Earth Day, don’t bother going to any of the publicity events. They are all a distraction. If you want to volunteer at one of the many cleanups and habitat restoration work parties—if you’re willing to actually get your hands dirty and make something better—that’s worthwhile, but don’t pretend your responsibility ends when you leave. If you really want to make it mean something, think about what you can do the rest of the year.

What can you start tomorrow and then keep doing to make your own impact less destructive to our shared life support system?

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