Friday, April 22, 2011

Recycle. Reuse. Re, Er, Um, Whatever...

Remembering When Earth Day Really Meant Something

Back in the 1970s (why does that suddenly seem soooooooo very, very long ago?), when Earth Day, if not the Earth itself, was young, there was much ado, not only to commemorate, but actually to help heal, our planet.

Clean ups of parks, beaches, roadways, rivers and streams. Rallies to protect and improve the environment. Observances in every nook and cranny of this great land, from college campuses to local vest pocket parks.

Why, even the government joined in the celebration, clamping down on polluters, regulating emissions, and offering up public service announcements proding the nation to keep our planet clean.

Today, with more years behind it than many on this blue sphere have been alive, mention Earth Day, and, if you evoke more than a disengaged yawn, about all you'll hear is, "Oh yeah. Earth Day."

Sure, Google Earth Day (at least they remember), and you will no doubt find that our concern for Planet Earth abounds in cyberspace. Elsewhere, little more than mere mention.

Yes, towns, hamlets, civic and community organizations and, of course, those darn tree-hugging believers in the climate change hoax, recall the day, echoing its promise, evoking a faint hoorah. Still, Earth Day ain't what it used to was.

In our schools, there's little in the curriculum, other than a passing homage, perhaps, to Earth Day. Not enough time to expound on the virtues of keeping our planet safe for all creatures, great and small, what with the need to spend every classroom hour teaching to the tests.

Going Green used to mean something tangible. Doing something, proactively, to save the whales, cut down on CO2 and greenhouse gases, or help close that gapping hole in the Ozone layer. Today, Going Green is too often little more than a marketing tool. From Radio Shack to Starbucks, Earth Day is but a merchandising scheme to lure in the masses.

Why, even Congress (or at least one side of the aisle) has thrown Earth Day under the fume-spewing bus, hoping to end the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) role in oversight and regulation.

Granted, movements gain and lose momentum over time. They wane and ebb, much like the brown, oil-laden tides that blanket our shores with toxic waste. Wonder whether, a generation hence (if either mankind or any life on this good Earth will still be here), we'll be embracing the metaphors of Sustainability and Smart Growth the way we do Earth Day and Going Green? Sure, we'll have talked the talk. There's an abundance of that. But what will we have to show for it?

Clean air? Who needs it? Clean water? Highly overrated. Life as we know it? We'll worry about it tomorrow. Maybe.

Whatever happened to Keep America Beautiful? Remember those TV spots (pre-cable) featuring the Native American (we called them American Indians back then) shedding a tear over some inconsiderate boob tossing litter out of a car window? He'd be mortified if he had lived to see what we're doing to our poor planet today. And where's Woodsy Owl when we need him most?

Earth Day. Reduced, unlike Carbon emissions and water-borne carcinogens, to little more than a Hallmark moment.

We suppose that A Billion Acts of Green just don't go as far as they used to...

Happy, ho hum, Earth Day!

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