According to the giant calendar above my desk, today is Earth Day. That calendar is made of paper (and is designed with atrocious colors but that’s what you get for $1.99), and come December its corpse will become waste unless I decided to haul it back to my apartment where we have recycling. On Earth Day I feel particularly motivated to do things like reduce, reuse and recycle. I get the same buzz when I buy a new reusable grocery bag or watch a documentary about penguins. But it’s just so easy to slack off in my Earth-saving habits for about 300 days out of the year. The rest of the time, it’s either out of my mind or secondary to so many other things. Saving the Earth is something I’d like to do, but I also want to make my yoga class this afternoon and that has some more immediate benefits. So I use one more plastic bag; I throw away a container I could have reused; I do not, for one moment, Save the Earth.
And maybe it is so easy for me to forget about Saving the Earth because we call it “Saving the Earth.” To save something seems like a choice that only impact the thing we are saving. Like pulling a small child out of a pool, we save the child. The only benefit to ourselves is the new sense of self congratulation. But in the case of the planet – it’s dangerous levels of CO2 and overwhelming piles of waste – what “Save the Earth” doesn’t address is the fact that we humans are actually the thing that needs saving.
If you do nothing else today, I beg you to listed to this podcast from Point of Inquiry, which features a short spoken essay by Lauren Becker about why the phrase “Save the Earth” has undermined the importance of this task, and does not actually describe the dire situation we are in. Becker’s essay is poignant and enlightening and I listen to it whenever I need a reminder that Earth day is not just about trees and polar bears (although those are important too); it is very much about the survival of us humans. Continue listening to hear a really cool interview with Bill Nye about his plans for a new TV show (joy!).
And while you’re at it, because this is Earth day after all and I really do need to get to a yoga class, read this great article in the NY Times about garbage burning stations in Europe and why they haven’t caught on in the US (plus some resulting letters to the editor – what a hot topic!).
Happy Earth Day. Now go out and save yourselves.