Today, April 22nd, Earth Day 2010, is the fortieth year of celebrating Earth Day! And looking back over those 40 years it is clear that things have changed a lot in our collective consciousness as well as in our behavioral patterns towards the good of our planet, including our awareness of the seriousness of climate change.
Today it is clear that a greater percentage of the population is much more aware than back on the first Earth Day in 1970, of such things as the importance of composting, or methodically recycling their garbage including E-waste, and truly thinking "green." In fact, awareness of that word "green" (the G word, if you will) is among the key things that have changed over the years -- both for better and for worse. Despite all of the well-meaning folks' adaptation of the term "green," the G word has simultaneously become a buzz word for big business to borrow. At its worst the G word has morphed into one of those hollow words that profit-driven corporations love to market as they loudly throw it on leaflets, wastefully printed up by the hundreds of thousands to inform us of just how "green" and "eco-friendly" they are.
I always think of that hilarious episode of 30 Rock starring David Schwimmer as the NBC environmentally-friendly mascot Greenzo used by the GE owned NBC to make the most money off of what they see as "the whole green trend." Of course, in true 30 Rock comedic tradition, the project backfires when Greenzo, with new-found popularity gone to his head, insists that he really believes in the meaning of "green." Furthermore, the real joke behind this 30 Rock episode is that Tina Fey and company concocted it in a slightly subversive reaction to the real-life NBC's week long green-themed programming, which the company, at the time three years ago, toted as "aimed at entertaining, informing and empowering Americans to lead greener lives."
There is a wonderful read in today's New York Times titled At 40, Earth Day Is Now Big Business that illustrates how this day has "turned into a premier marketing platform for selling a variety of goods and services" compared to back in 1970 when Earth Day organizers vehemently took absolutely no money from corporations and held teach-ins geared “to challenge corporate and government leaders.” Indeed. I doubt that those earnest 1970 Earth Day organizers could have ever envisioned a time (like 2010) when large chains like Target go Green. But, as the article points out, it is in response to the actual popularity of Earth Day -- born out of a grassroots environmental movement spearheaded by sincere well-meaning individuals -- that large corporations recognized the unavoidable power of the day, and hence latched onto its message. And while it is healthy to remain cynical about the real motives of corporations, I must admit that it is better to have them promote something positive rather than something destructive to our planet.
Now in 2010, with over one billion people in 190 countries recognizing Earth Day, it is has become a time for all citizens of Earth to band together to take care of the place in which we (and later generations will) dwell. As the folks over at the Official Earth Day 2010 Campaign pointed out, "The world is in greater peril than ever. While climate change is the greatest challenge of our time, it also presents the greatest opportunity – an unprecedented opportunity to build a healthy, prosperous, clean energy economy now and for the future." And we can all do our bit by following the simple actions outlined in Amoeba Music's 10 Steps For A Greener Tomorrow.
Interview segment with Robert Stone about The History of Earth Day, airing on PBS this week