I spent Earth Day in a small cabin on a sand spit that juts from the coast of Bainbridge Island, enjoying the sun, the waves, my kids’ delighted squeals, and most of all, the four — yes, four — hour nap I took mid-day. Ah … love me some Earth Day!
So I missed my chance to write an inspiring message. Instead, I offer this small roundup of stuff to read:
- Last year on ED, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek list of "Ten ways to turn that global frown upside down." The intent was to satirize the ubiquitous lists of small steps individuals can take — small steps that are grossly inadequate to the scale of our global environmental problems. On Worldchanging, Alex skips the satire and pounds the point home.
I believe we are bombarded with messages encouraging us to take the “small steps” precisely because those steps are a threat to no one. They don’t depress sales of fashionable crap we don’t need. They don’t bring people into the streets or sweep corrupt politicians from office. They certainly don’t threaten the powerful, entrenched interests who are growing fantastically rich off keeping us locked into the systems that make our lives such a burden on the planet and impoverish our brothers and sisters elsewhere.
… Consumer-based approaches and "simple things" lists tend to reinforce our sense that the only sphere in which we can act is our own little private lives, and that isolates us. But the isolation we all sometimes feel in the face of the magnitude of the problems is itself a major part of the problem. None of us can change the world single-handedly: as Wendell Berry says, "to work at this work alone is to fail." We need to organize, mobilize, join together, act in concert. We need to seek out our allies and get their backs when they need us. That happens through applied effort, not impulse buying.
Word. I believe, as I’m sure Alex does, that “small steps” can sometimes get people thinking, make them aware, and lead to larger steps. But not always, and that process is certainly not automatic. Much of our media culture is devoted to anesthetizing us, and its new "green" turn is no different. We must not fool people: small steps are not enough.
- The Wall Street Journal opinion page, the NYT’s conservative columnist John Tierney, and Dick Pombo all want you to know that everything’s OK, environment-wise, and those telling you otherwise are alarmists and hysterics. And as long as you only pay attention to those metrics they’ve carefully selected, hell, optimism is easy.
- Google changes its logo for almost every holiday. For ED, they emphasized wind and solar power — nice work, Google. (The logo’s gone now, but Treehugger grabbed it.)
- The Sierra Club’s ED message centers on its CoolHome tour, which is a pretty nifty little interactive widget that shows you all the many easy ways you can make your home more energy-efficient. Carl Pope discusses it here.
- The Progress Report has its typical roundup of two zillion links on various and sundry environmental issues.
- Put off by the egregiously blingy character of the Vanity Fair green issue, AlterNet asked its readers for some environmental heroes closer to the grassroots. The results are in.
- Two bits on global warming. First, NYT reporter Andy Revkin, who’s been covering global warming for close to 20 years, seems a little huffy about the sudden rush of coverage it’s getting. He seems to view it as a touch over-the-top. In a piece in the NYT Week in Review, he tries to separate what we know from what we don’t. In Seed magazine, by contrast, Chris Mooney is heartened by the upswing in coverage, and views it as an acknowledgment that we’re starting to feel the effects in our back yards.
- Finally, Friday — the day before ED — would have been John Muir’s 168th birthday. Kit Stolz writes him an eloquent letter.