Well… here’s to another year, another Earth Day, another symbolic gesture of our renewed commitment to the well being of our planet. It’s another day on the calendar, another informative email, another brief break in energy consumption; a dimming of the lights in offices whose managers happened to read the memo.
A celebration in its 45th year of annuity, born of the hippie movement and raised by environmental groups, it can often be hard to take Earth Day seriously. Typically viewed as more clutter in the calendar, a Google Holiday as we might call it these days, Earth Day to the contrary, grows more relevant with each passing year.
We all know that the ice caps are melting, that there is a patch of accumulated plastic particles potentially the size of the continental United States growing in the Pacific, and that the long term fallout from atrocities like Chernobyl and Fukushima are only beginning to be seen. We also know that Earth’s environmental problems aren’t going to be solved by any act of symbolism.
The apparent futility of focusing on Earth Day might be one of the reasons that people find it so easy to overlook. The planet isn’t going to be saved by your offices’ dimmed lights, nor will it be saved by any of the other Earth Day related campaigns that are going to be run this month, but that’s also the wrong way to look at it. Earth Day is not a solution, it was never meant to be.
The real solution is simple. It boils down to 7.2 billion people all doing their part. It’s essentially the basis of environmentalism; promoting the idea that if every person and consequently every business just did their part, we’d see real solutions to our very real environmental problems.
This is where Earth Day comes in. The purpose of Earth Day isn’t to solve problems. The purpose, rather, is to keep the cause from being forgotten. The ideal of “everyone doing their part” is one that is easy to forget, unless of course you are talking about it. Earth Day ignites the conversation, it stirs and inspires movements, it provides an avenue for already existing causes to broadcast their message on a global scale.
It’s kind of like how people tell you to carry the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ with you all year round, except way more important. Earth Day gives you a chance, each year, to think about how you fit in; about the things that you are doing to hurt the environment, but also about the things that you are doing to help the environment. It gives you a reason to think about how you are going to do your part, and about how practical and easy it can be to do so.
Think about the fresh air you save simply by walking in rather than taking the drive through. Think about how your plastic shopping bags, if not recyclable, are at the very least reusable. Think about how your discarded electronics, if not recycled, will rot in a landfill poisoning local soil and groundwater for centuries to come.
Consider the combined impact of a full year of a single person doing his or her part. Consider that against the destruction of a full year of a person not doing their part. With each passing year, as more people become aware of the day to day impact they have on the environment, we will get closer to that ultimate goal, of 7.2 billion people, all doing their part. It’s not meant to sound as daunting as it does, and it begins simply by having a conversation. The one thing that Earth Day does seek to do.