Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Materialistic Earth Day

"Let’s start with the rhetoric. It’s not Mother Earth that needs saving. No matter what we do to it, the planet is going to be just fine. Given time, the global ecosystem will adapt, evolve, and recover. Our species might not be so fortunate. As Romm writes, 'Ultimately, stopping climate change is not about preserving the earth or creation but about preserving ourselves…The focus needs to stay on the health and well-being of billions of humans because, ultimately, humans are the ones who will experience the most prolonged suffering.' Make that message clear, and we’ve got a fighting chance.

It’s not Earth that needs saving. It’s us.

Granted, this shallow, misguided rhetoric extends beyond Earth Day, but the event certainly shouts the message loudest. It has also, I’m afraid, devolved into a PR-driven whirlwind of materialism. Check out the new Saturn hybrid! (Ignore the fact that it gets worse gas mileage than a plain old Honda Civic.) Be amazed by the new line of natural cleaners. (Brought to you by the same company that still won’t pay fines for dumping toxic chemicals into local rivers.) Just try to escape your town’s Earth Day happening without a eco-tote, freshly branded by some grocery store or department store or television station. (Hang it next to the three other branded eco-totes already in your closet from Earth Days past.)

Don’t get me wrong—I appreciate that companies are coming around, and all of these things—hybrids, eco-friendly cleaners, reusable bags—are, on their own, good developments. But Earth Day has become little more than a time to celebrate these “solutions”—organic t-shirts! “Ten Ways to Green Your Life” lists! biodegradable forks!—that fall embarrassingly short of what we truly need to deal with the massive ecological crises before us."

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