Earth Day: Oh, What is the Point of it all?
Marvin: I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed.
Trillian: Well, we have something that may take your mind off it.
Marvin: It won't work, I have an exceptionally large mind.
Trillian: Yeah, we know.
Alex Steffen and Dave Roberts have big minds, and they are depressed, and not looking forward to Earth Day.
Alex and Sarah at Worldchanging say that Earth Day has "become a ritual of sympathy for the idea of environmental sanity. Small steps, we're told, ignoring the fact that most of the steps most frequently promoted (returning your bottles, bringing your own bag, turning off the water while you brush your teeth) are of such minor impact (compared to our ecological footprints) that they are essentially meaningless without larger, systemic action as well."
Dave at Grist is shocked, shocked that only 60% of Americans believe that global warming has begun to affect the climate and frets that most people are wary of any government effort to protect the environment by imposing restrictions on how they live, work or get around. He agrees with Alex and Sarah and says "Yup. The time for "small steps" is long past. It's time for people to wake the hell up."
Lloyd at TreeHugger thinks that Dave, Sarah and Alex should go outside and look around. In the rest of the developed world, the issue is either settled and the governments are committed, or the various parties are competing to out-green each other. In Britain a conservative leader puts turbines on his roof; in Canada a centrist leader names his dog Kyoto. Politicians everywhere don't lead public opinion, they follow it, and when public opinion says go green, even right wing Australians ban incandescents. Survival trumps ideology.
We all know that changing a lightbulb is meaningless if we are building coal fired power plants like mad. The issues at stake will be dealt with at the government level, not in our chandelier. Small steps lead to comprehension.
Small steps lead to education and awareness and that leads to votes and votes lead to change. Educated voters toss out Richard Pombo and elect Jerry McNerney. Educated voters don't vote for an Obama who panders to the coal industry, or a McCain now pandering to the ethanol states.
Events like Earth day, Green issues of magazines, and yes, even solar powered bikinis raise awareness and shift public opinion. Educated voters see through the wall of propaganda designed to confuse and polarize.
60% of Americans believe that global warming has begun to affect the climate. That is enough to change a government, and we should take every Earth Day, Hang up your laundry day, take back your shopping cart day or whatever other day we can to encourage the small incremental changes in people that add up to an environmentally aware majority that understands the impacts of their actions and behavior.
The majority of the population doesn't like listening to people who make them want to stick their head in the oven, they want to listen to people tell them how to live a better and happier life, which is why Oprah and Martha have more readers than Alex and Dave. We need that majority.
So lets all go get on our bikes on Earth Day, go have an organic beer and a local lunch, buy something at a small-mart and tell a few people about a neat new way to save a quart of water when you brush your teeth. Every small step helps.