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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mourning and Celebrating Earth Day

In my part of the globe, Earth Day, April 22nd draws to a close. While it was gratifying to see it recognized by so many and varied entities, among them Time magazine honoring it with a “green border”, Google with a moss encrusted landscape, my twitter friends using it for an avatar with monkchips and yellowpark creating a @earthdayavatars visualization for “ambient community” display and my colleague Craig Cmehil creating/supporting an eventtrack to aggregate all the earth day tags in flickr, technorati, and twitter, I still can’t help thinking that this isn’t just a day to celebrate earth but to mourn it as well. So unless there is some very powerful innovative and restorative activity happening and very fast, all the wearing of the green will have little more effect than it did when I dressed up for St.Patrick’s day in junior high. Lots of sentiment and identification but it didn’t at all make me Irish.

This I mourn deeply: since 1970, the first Earth Day, almost no real perceptible change.

“After Earth Day, nothing was the same,” environmental writer Philip Shabecoff said. Earth Day brought revolutionary change and “touched off a great burst of activism that profoundly affected the nation’s laws, its economy, its corporations, its farms, its politics, science, education, religion, and journalism…” It achieved Nelson’s long-sought goal of putting the environment onto the nation’s political agenda. “Most important, the social forces unleashed after Earth Day changed, probably forever, the way Americans think about the environment.” Philip Shabecoff, A Fierce Green Fire: The American Environmental Movement (New York: Hill and Wang, 1993), 114.

Is nothing the same? That would be cause to rejoice. But alas, if this is our "new" political agenda, why is it that the conference sessions seem recycled and stale. Recycling earth day translates into a stagnation which can only make its meaning toxic plasticity. It will take some very engaged, determined and creative minds to bring it back to vibrant life. That would really be a day to celebrate.

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