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Not a Warm and Fuzzy Earth Day Post

April 22, 2010

My husband called me today to say he was depressed.   Now, there’s a lot in our house to be depressed about this week, for personal reasons which I just don’t get into much on this blog, so I was surprised when he said he wasn’t depressed about any of that stuff, but about Earth Day.  About how Earth Day just doesn’t seem important to people.

Now in my neck of the woods (the people I surround myself with anyway), Earth Day is actually getting bigger in their lives.  My friends are recycling more, paying more attention to the food they buy, not buying as many petroleum products – it’s not taking a “holiday” called Earth Day to spur them into making some changes in their lives.

But then I read this blog post, and it made me think. It was entitled WHY I HATE EARTH DAY, and yes, it was written by a self-avowed environmentalist. It was a good read, though a long one, discussing the truths about environmental justice, something long shoved under the rug. Depending on where you live, things may look like they’re getting much better, but for much of the world, and honestly, even in the poorer sections of the U.S., it’s getting worse.

As Sharon wrote:

If you live with the heavy smog of newly industrialized cities in the Global South, pollution isn’t something that is far away. If electronic waste leaks mercury and heavy metals into your groundwater, pollution isn’t magically invisible – you can see the vast piles of e-waste from the rich world, who have made their troubles better, largely by shifting things out of sight,.

In the net, quantities of nearly every major pollutant have risen, not fallen over the last forty years. Air traffic has risen by a factor of six, with all associated pollutants. We recycle 38% of our paper, but we’re turning trees into paper at double the rate of 1970. We have doubled the number of fish we extract from the ocean and tripled our fossil fuel consumption.

It’s not a happy thought, and it’s not the traditional warm and fuzzy message that Earth Day usually brings, but it’s something to acknowledge. In the U.S. we may be doing better than we once were, but a lot of our pollution gets passed off onto the other countries that make our cheap goods – and those people and animals also matter. No matter what little sacrifices we make, and face it, we make them because they’re easy, and we’re lazy, and because we’re not forced to live with the consequences of our actions – YET, it’s not enough.  It might not matter to us today, but it matters to someone on this Earth today – and it will matter to our children, or grandchildren someday soon.

I have to leave you with the same poem that the author of that post left her readers.


by Wendell Berry

1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

3. What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.

4. In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.

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