Today is Earth Day, but it’s one of the most confused and misguided celebratory days of the year. The U.N. refers to this day as the “International Mother Earth Day,” but what is it we’re supposed to celebrate?
For almost 40 years, Earth Day was celebrated both during the northern vernal equinox on March 20 and on April 22. Every year, each day would vie for public subscription until the U.N. threw in the towel in 2009, declaring April 22 as the official International Mother Earth Day.
And what is it that we’re supposed to do? According to the resolution, countries are “to observe and raise awareness of International Mother Earth Day, as appropriate.” So if we deem that dressing up as pandas, doing yoga and composting in the name of Earth is appropriate – go for it!
Environmental activism is critical in a world undergoing so much change, but Earth Day should celebrate Earth and not become an international day of declarations for environmental promise keeping.
We all know the grim numbers: The World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report estimates that there has been a decline by 40 percent in wildlife populations around the world since 1970; almost a third of global fisheries have collapsed since the 1960s; The Keeling Curve, which tracks atmospheric CO2 since 1958, shows we are heading towards catastrophic climate change and a group of experts say that out of nine safe operating boundaries for Earth, four of them are in the red zone.
It may be true that we are better off today than we were before the Industrial Revolution in the sense that we all finally have enough to eat (though problems with distribution still mean that over 800 million people go hungry), but the environmental costs have been staggering. Given the relentlessly depressing message of environmentalism, finding ways to make environmental action fun is important, so a globally coordinated network of environmental action is terrific and April 22 is as good a day as any to do that.
We should celebrate Earth as a unique, special planet that has been home to life for billions of years and that has brought us an astonishing diversity of species, from whales to wallabies, from flying foxes to flying fish, from photosynthetic bacteria to mushroom-bearing fungi. Earth has been the home to roughly nine million species who are our kith and kin.
Birthday cards and testimonials at teach-ins should speak to why Earth is so special. And as for presents: just as many of us like presents meant to make life easier, like power tools or a bigger television, presents for Earth should be parcels of land powered by a rich and robust diversity of plants, animals and microorganisms that build soils, stabilize the atmosphere and cleanse waterways
To show how much we love her, humans must support one million new and international students of botany, zoology, microbiology, ecology and evolution, who will learn all about life on Earth and how to care for it. Like a certificate to a spa, spoil Earth by taking part in starting 10,000 restoration projects around the world to revitalize her aching systems.
Earth’s Birthday shouldn’t be a global “spring cleaning day;” consistent of a network of eclectic, minor cleanup, tree planting, recycling activities that make our lives better.
It should be about joyous celebrations of Earth, with commitments to building new schools, museums, observatories and other institutions that will uncover, cherish and preserve everything there is to know about Earth. These are the gifts that people can give to celebrate Earth, not ourselves.
This article is courtesy of the associated press. The opinions expressed are that of the writer.