April 17

Earth Day Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be


If you think Earth Day is it simple, fun, and impactful way to heal the earth, you might want to temper that opinion a little bit with some background facts. I'm going to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly about Earth Day.

First, the good:
Because Earth Day founders had Madison Avenue backing, they really are reaching a good number of average people. That's good, because the more people who know about the mess we’ve made, the more likely it is that policies will come into play to decrease the damage. 

Let’s take a look at some of the environmental legislation: the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Superfund, Toxics Substances Control Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. As well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the banning of DDT, and lead in gasoline. 

These regulations are far superior to the nothing we had before. I distinctly remember when Lake Erie caught on fire when I was a kid, and the piles of litter along highways. 

And now for the bad news: many of these policies were badly written, and either went too far, or not far enough. The creation of the EPA, for example, was a terrific beginning. But 50 years later, it “has become a politicized group that acts far beyond its limits and in a destructive, rather than constructive, way.” At the other end of the spectrum, a Florida policy was watered down so much in discussion as to render it useless.

Which leads us to the ugly:
The Flint water crisis should never have happened in the first place, And yet it is still going on today - six years later. Do you know what happens to babies and children who ingest lead? They get brain-damage.  

In the last 15 months, there have been 12 major oil spills. I'm not counting the minor oil spills that are destroying the seagrass that manatees eat. Or the microbeads that are now in everything.

Did you know about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s unbelievably enormous: more than twice the size of Texas. 

I could go on, but you get the point. Earth Day is terrific for a feel-good, do-nothing “holiday”. It is, in fact, better than nothing - but it doesn’t touch the reality of corporate pollution and waste on a grand scale. And it matters. Personally, I find manatees kind of disgusting, ugly things. But we’re all connected here. "Manatees are the proverbial 'canaries in the mineshaft,' as they serve as indicators of their environment and may reflect the overall health of marine ecosystems.” 

Please, by all means, go pick up trash by the Greenway, because we all live here and we want to live in a better place. Minimize the packaging you use and buy. Pick up litter on the trails.

But to really make a difference, we need to buy from companies that are environmentally friendlier, avoid the monsters, and to vote in politicians who will take all of this seriously.

The Earth Day 2021 theme is Restore Our Earth. Let me know in the comments how you're planning on celebrating Earth Day this year!


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