Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Dying to Celebrate Earth Day

Today is Earth Day . . . a day of religious observance among the ignorati.

Let’s celebrate, shall we, by fisking a true believer, namely Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D, whose weekly commentary on the Environmental News Service is an inexhaustible resource of wonder and amusement.

Dr. Giuliano -- well he’s not a real doctor so let’s just call him Dr. Jackie – Dr. Jackie is in a foul mood this Earth Day. It is a day of mourning he says.

The 33rd Earth Day this year will mark an unprecedented time of resource consumption and environmental violence against the Earth and our health.


I understand that fear is an important driver of the environmental movement but c’mon, “unprecedented?” Didn’t we consume approximately the same amount of stuff last year? Plus, if this thing has been going on for three decades and you haven’t made any progress at all, at what point do you just give up?

Butlet’s not let a little contradiction stand in the way of righteous indignation.

While deadly pollution harms U.S. soldiers, the people, and environment of Iraq and the surrounding countries, while the Baghdad zoo has been ransacked and the animals either killed, let loose, or stolen, while innocent Iraqi children suffer from U.S. inflicted injuries, and while tens of thousands of people worldwide die from soil, air, and water poisoned with pesticides and scores of toxic chemicals, Earth Day craft fairs, discussion groups, and lectures will be held. Lost is the passion and sense of urgency that heralded the first Earth Day 33 years ago.


How clever the way he weaves in the recent liberation of Iraq from a fascist dictatorship . . . but that’s not anything to celebrate. After all, the evil of America’s aggression against innocent Iraqi children outweighs the benefits to actual Iraqi children who were freed from the fetid children’s prisons run by the Saddam thugocracy.

And what of this deadly pollution? No doubt, Saddam would not have torched the Iraqi people’s oil resources if we had simply left his junta in peace.

Earth Day has become a time when the right wing corporate, industrial, and political leaders probably rejoice in the passivity of the population.


Yes, in fact I’m already late for the big Earth Day Passivity Ball over at Halliburton headquarters. Actually, I think the prevailing mood even among “right wing industrial leaders” is total and all-encompassing indifference. I mean, everyone tunes out a shrill fire alarm if it’s been ringing for 33 years.

Some would argue that although many people are more aware of environmental issues today than in 1970, little has been done to stem the tide of environmental destruction in a world where economic growth outweighs planetary health. If anything, the destruction is happening at a greater level than ever before. It is often less visible because industry leaders and politicians know how to keep things quieter with the help of well paid public relations firms.


Hey, I’ve worked in the public relations field and corporate clients are notoriously inept at keeping anything quiet. More than that, they are thin-skinned to the point of self-flagellation.

Look at any major multinational – BP, Philip Morris, Unilever – they are falling all over themselves to be the most acquiescent, the most Green, the most “socially responsible” even if that means being shaken down by every passing tribe of single-issue Luddites.

If anything, Earth Day itself is one of the great PR campaigns of modern times. It’s basically a regularly scheduled annual excuse to talk about the green agenda. There is no counterbalancing “Progress Day” when the media covers advances in medicine, electronics and food production.

While the lectures and conversations take place on Earth Day, in Bangladesh, hungry people fight to get fish from polluted sewage treatment plant water.

In Iraq, only 500 people out of a city of five million have electricity and power restored. Also in Iraq, criminals carefully planned the thefts and destruction of all the country’s archeological, artistic and literary treasures. The loss to the world of these artifacts, some dating from the dawn of human civilization, is a catastrophe of proportions never before seen in the history of the Earth. The Bush administration has hired a U.S. company to revise the curriculum in Iraqi schools. As always, the victors rewrite the history books.


Whoa Nelly . . . better lie still and cool off until the Bush fever passes.

Where do I start? Restoring power to Iraq would presumably require the burning of fossil fuels. The loss of precious Babylonian artifacts was averted a century ago when they were taken by the Brits for safekeeping in London. And as for the Bush Administration buying new books of Iraqi schoolchildren, well if Dr. Jackie thinks deleting all the fascist tripe the Saddam Administration saw fit to include in the curriculum is a bad thing . . . well, you can't please everyone can you?

Thirty-three years after the first Earth Day, I am feeling rather cynical. Earth Day 2003 is a Hallmark card holiday, a day of a few beach clean-ups, educational booths, tree plantings, speeches, conversations and parades. Many festivals and fairs will be held throughout the U.S. with food, exhibits and, I am sure, many opportunities to buy products to filter our poisoned air and water.


Call me cynical but the mainstreaming of a healthy appreciation for our natural environment would seem to be a wonderful success story. And look, we now have products to filter the air and water. That’s good, isn’t it?

There will be few demonstrations demanding an end to the madness sweeping across our world and few events pledging solidarity to those fighting for the cleanup of our Earth, our seas, and our skies.


Beach clean ups, tree plantings, technological solutions . . . why it’s madness!!! Rather we should pledge fealty to the true believers who are fighting to clean everything, everywhere, all the time. People like Dr. Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D. (genius).

It should NOT be a day to sell T-shirts as fundraisers. It should be a day to teach simplification, to model how to end our consumption at all costs lifestyle, and to highlight the importance of establishing a deep and profound connection to the natural world, the cycles of life, and the rhythms of nature.


Right, forget the tree plantings! You’ve got to go deeper . . . much, much deeper. Make a more profound connection in the cycles of life and the rhythms of nature. Plant yourself!

On Earth Day 2003, maybe more than ever before in history, we need to reflect seriously on the fact that time may really be running out for our planet's life support systems - and for us.


Maybe. But then, maybe not.

After all, Malthus has been dead wrong about the exact same thing for nearly 200 years. And he didn’t even own a car.

Maybe Earth Day should be a global call to stop work, to stop driving, stop killing, to sit quietly at home, use as few resources as possible, and teach our children that the raping and plundering of the Earth in the name of economic growth has taken us to the brink of disaster.


Yes, there’s nothing quite like sitting, shivering and hungry in the dark to get you thinking about the true meaning of “nature.”

This isn’t a bad idea, actually. If everyone spent Earth Day in a state of “nature” we could pretty much pull the plug on the whole environmental movement. It would instantly turn into an informal Appreciate the Benefits of Economic Progress Day.

Maybe Earth Day should be a day of national listening, listening for, as Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn says, for the sound of the Earth crying. If we really hear that sound, our only choice would be to act – now.


But wait a second, Dr. Jackie said we should be inert. Thich Nhat Hahn says we should act. Which is it?

Maybe we should just play dead.

The problem isn't a coporate orchestrated public passivity about the environment but rather an ever keener understanding that economic growth results in a cleaner, healthier world.

If you want to deepen you connections to the rythyms of nature and the cycles of life you need only go to places like Chad or Cambodia.

Hell, every day is Earth Day in Haiti!

There are plenty of places in the world where people spend their entire lives not working or driving . . . unfortunately that usually means they don't have a home to sit quietly in and teach their children about the evils of economic growth. First you'd have to explain what "economic growth" is.

Better yet, many of these people seem to be willing to risk their lives to come here and experience the evils first hand.

That's what we should celebrate . . . welcome to a society that has enough excess wealth that we we devote one whole day to worrying about whether we are a threat to nature rather than the other way around.



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