Does Earth Day matter?


Treehugger interviewed 22 eco-centric bloggers and activists for a "True Meaning of Christmas"-style round up, asking, "With all the commercialization and greenwashing, is Earth Day still important to people who actually care about the Earth?"

The answers cover a nice range of opinion. I rather like journalist Alissa Walker's take:

Earth Day actually began 40 years ago as a "teach-in" on college campuses, but since then the learning aspect has become watered down. I'd like to see the annual holiday bring back its educational focus, only this time broadcasted across blogs and social networks and in live, local, government-sponsored events. Imagine getting the day off work–which would automatically reduce automobile emissions and energy consumption across the country–to participate in user-generated, DIY classes like composting workshops or teaching bike safety or learning from scientists how a solar panel works. Dozens of TEDxEarth conferences could be held in national and state parks, which would all be made free for the day, and streamed live online. At night, people would be encouraged to patronize a neighborhood restaurant where chefs would demonstrate how they made healthy, family-style dishes using local ingredients, and pass along the recipes to their neighbors.

OK, so that's a rather Utopian image. I certainly don't see all of America suddenly getting the day off for Earth Day any time soon. But the idea of returning to the holiday's very Maker-y, self-education beginnings is do-able, fun and actually productive. Gives me ideas for next year.

Also, my 2 cents: Has Earth Day become a watered-down consumerbration for the non-activist masses? Yup. Is that necessarily a totally bad thing? I think not. Look, you can't do anything to change the way we treat this planet—and each other—on one day a year. But neither can you achieve that goal by keeping environmentalism cloistered away as something only for the truly dedicated who "do it right". Earth Day attracts corporate greenwashing and wasteful silliness, but it also attracts crowds. And some of them stick around for the other 364 days. Earth Day is partly responsible for the mainstreaming of environmentalism (which is good) and it continues to be partly responsible for further mainstreaming. This year, my mother—a nice, Conservative lady who lives in the Ozarks and thinks Glenn Beck is a hoot—is in the process of getting wind power installed on her land. She's using CFLs. She's got a rain barrel and she's concerned about energy efficiency. We can't make a difference without people like my mom on board. Earth Day plays a role in that.