I recently did an interview with a local radio station. I’d been invited on to talk about Earth Month and what we can do in our homes to reduce our carbon footprint.
I offered up my usual advice — neither new nor glamorous, but nonetheless worth repeating. We must, I said, remember that the three Rs start with “reduce.” We absolutely must reduce our consumption of fossil-fuel-burning energy. And then I outlined how incredibly simple — as well as economically sound — this is. If you’re doing it right, I said, living green should, overall, save you money.
The radio interviewer interrupted. “Hasn’t Earth Day lost its appeal?” he asked. “Didn’t it used to be trendy? Don’t you worry now that no one cares?”
I knew that he was referring to the lack of front-page news about environmental issues. The reduction in “Earth Month” special issues of magazines. The decrease in radio interviews about environmental issues.
The environment: Taking a back seat?
The answer isn’t easy. Environmental issues have undoubtedly been taking a back seat to economic issues. Fewer politicians are talking about environmental issues, unless it’s to attack the EPA (created thanks to pressure after the first Earth Day) or to spin some nonsense about how tar sands oil is “ethical.” And fewer citizens are demanding better of our politicians.
So, yes, environmental issues have been bumped off the front page, a spot they enjoyed only briefly.
But what’s also true is that, generally speaking, we’ve shifted toward a greener world.
Not so long ago, people in the checkout line rolled their eyes when I pulled out my reusable bags. They asked me questions about my hybrid car along the lines of “how do you start that thing?”
Mother Earth goes mainstream
Has Earth Day lost its appeal? Perhaps. Perhaps environmentalism of the lining-up-for-hours-to-buy-a-coveted-Anya-Hindmarsch-“I am not a plastic bag” variety is over. But that was environmentalism based on new-shiny-object thinking, not real change.
And, make no mistake, there has been change. Reusable bags are now as ubiquitous as recycling. Bikeshare and carshare programs are growing. Electric car sales are growing faster than manufacturers expected. Farmers’ fields feature large-scale solar panel installations, along with their grassfed cows. Wind turbines are popping up like daffodils. Countries around the world — Iceland, Norway, Germany, Portugal, Australia, Denmark, Costa Rica — are leading the charge in renewable energy with the first two relying exclusively on renewable. Appliances are increasingly energy-efficient. Even airplanes are working toward burning less fuel … and burning cleaner.
There’s still a long way to go. For every step forward there’s a pipeline project threatening to drag us back. But that’s no excuse for complacency or hand-wringing.
Earth Day, for most of us, is what it has always been: a locally rooted response to global environmental issues. Earth Day is and will always be about doing what we can, whether our efforts are featured on the news or not.
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