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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Earth Day, Earth Month, Earth Year?

Back in the 1500's, Copernicus was figuring out that the Earth was not the center of the universe. Apparently, nobody bothered to let the Earth know that.

Sure, it sounds like a mean thing to say - accusing the Earth of thinking that it's the center of the universe. Well, take a good hard look at reality and you'll see that we humans still have this mindset that the Earth still IS the center of the universe. We just no longer think of its LOCATION as the center of the universe. We still have the SETI program and other scientists and wingnuts scanning the airwaves for extraterrestrials trying to contact us. Why would E.T. want to talk to us? Surely, being the center of the universe and focal point of everything - any alien communication should certainly be coming OUR way. Aliens in other galaxies MUST be figuring out ways to talk to EARTH!

But I digress. This is about Earth Day and how it has been manipulated into a gigantic guilt-trip overexaggeration of its former self.

Earth Day started not only as a response to a 1969 oil spill, but as a culmination of an earth-friendly ecological movement. Industrialization had been booming, and people decided it was time to think a little bit more about the environment. Gaylord Nelson, a senator from Wisconsin, called for an "environmental teach-in" which he called Earth Day to be celebrated on April 22, 1970. That's it. One day to be recognized, not even asking for it to be an annual thing, which happened to be on the birthday of the man who founded Arbor Day almost a hundred years earlier in 1872. I don't know if this is coincidence or planning on Nelson's part.

The Earth Day of 1970 went well, for the most part. 20 million people celebrated that day, and events were led by Senator Nelson himself. And because NO non-political celebration should EVER be without political undertones, the events were modeled after Vietnam War protest events, and part of the festivities including actual protests of the Vietnam War. In fact, war protests were a part of Earth Day for a while after it became a national holiday repeated in 1971 and each year afterwards. Nothing screams "hippie liberalism" like combining environmentalism and war protestation!

Also in the aftermath of the 1970 Earth Day were the creation of the Clean Air Act as well as the foundation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The celebration of Earth Day is celebrated globally, observed in 175 countries by more than half a billion people each year. It is considered to be the largest-celebrated secular holiday in the world.

So why isn't that enough?

This season, I was greeted with posters and advertisements on the trains and buses for Earth Month Chicago. April 17th through May 20th was to be a celebration of Earth Month, completely disregarding the history and importance April 22nd had in the beginning. All of a sudden, it wasn't enough to focus on the Earth and ways to improve it for one entire day - now the Earth deserved more. It deserved an entire month! An entire month to be celebrated by ONE CITY. Why bother having one day that over 500 million people in 175 countries can share, when one city in one country can spread it arbitrarily over a month??

Are you starting to see the flaws in the logic?

The only thing that the Earth Month Chicago was doing that Earth Day simply couldn't was... No, wait - not a single thing during Earth Month Chicago couldn't have been done on Earth Day. The only difference is that the normal gamut of activities and events one would normally find on Earth Day were being spread across this period of a month. And it wasn't even that the events were to take longer - they were just broken up in little bits everywhere around this month. Whether it was the used cellphone recycling drive, the Green Business Conference, eyeglasses collection or even the recycling convention for household chemicals and computers (I can't figure out why those two are together) - all the events could either be crammed into one day, or could have been celebrated simultaneously in DIFFERENT CITIES. Hell, you could have one in the downtown area and one in a north suburb and one in a south suburb for all I care - get it DONE in ONE DAY and that's your EARTH DAY.

There's no excuse for it to take an entire month. Especially since it's not even a calendar month in any sense. At least Black History month is all of February. This is April 17 - May 20; a very-arbitrary 34 days! It's incredibly hard to celebrate a festival period if you have no clue when it ends or begins. It's even harder if you don't even care in the first place. But the madness doesn't end there - no, not by a long shot...

"Make EVERY month Earth Month!"

That's right - they're actually suggesting that what used to be a one-day-a-year celebration and good idea become an every-day-all-year monotony! There's a reason why most holidays are ONE day out of the entire year - because we'd get sick and tired of it every day and it would lose all its meaning and special qualities! If every day were Valentine's Day, not only would we become disgusted and enraged as the colors pink and red, develop diabetes at more-alarming rates, and probably see the divorce rate spike after a few weeks of love-based torture - but we'd lose all honor and respect for the holiday itself. Not that we had much for a "Hallmark Holiday" in the first place, but that's still more respect than most of us hold for Earth Day as it is.

So let's try and save what little sanctity there is left of Earth Day.

Not a month, not all year. Just one day - April 22nd. Like the other half-billion people in 175 countries.

You know, the people of the Earth we created a Day to focus on.

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