Today is Earth Day. Yay Earth! MYD is having our celebration this Monday. Join us as we celebrate past victories, like cleaner air and cleaner water for Americans, and help plan future ones, like containing carbon emissions.
I thought I would also share some of the better things I read today on Earth Day. Slate’s The Green Lantern has an article on what to really focus on to make the world a better place environmentally:
Arnold Tukker of the Dutch research organization TNO laid out his top recommendations thusly: Insulate your home, choose energy-efficient appliances, drive a fuel-efficient car (if you must drive at all), moderate your meat and dairy consumption, eat what’s in season, and avoid food that’s been air-shipped.
Nina also reminded us that we need to do more than think of small changes, we actually need to think of the big picture:
But let’s step back even further and consider another kind of big picture. Individual actions—no matter what kind of savings they produce—can’t really be evaluated in isolation. In order to be environmentally meaningful, they need to be considered as part of a larger, holistic set of behaviors. For example, if you buy a fuel-efficient hybrid and then proceed to drive it twice as often, you’ve squandered your savings. (That’s what’s known in environmental circles as “the rebound effect.”) Likewise, if you scrupulously buy nontoxic cleaners and 100 percent recycled toilet paper but fly once a month for work, you’re really not doing Earth any favors.
Sustainable consumption isn’t just about buying greener products—it’s also about changing the way we think about consumption in the first place. As Tukker’s co-editor, Maurie Cohen of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, noted, we won’t save the planet by consuming differently: We need to learn how to consume less. That’s a hard truth to swallow in this age of lazy environmentalism. But what better time to contemplate it than Earth Day?
Bill McKibben has a call to action in an Op-Ed in today’s Washington Post, where he points out the weakness of the movement, some of its history, and how we can move forward. I enjoyed this testimony to political power:
“About two weeks after Earth Day,” McCloskey said, “there was an article on the sixth or seventh page of the Washington Star — some of the Earth Day kids had labeled 12 members of Congress the Dirty Dozen and vowed to defeat them. Nobody paid much attention. On the first Wednesday in June, though, everyone in Washington opened the paper to find that the two Democrats on that list — one a powerful committee chairman, the other a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee — had lost primary fights by fewer than a thousand votes. Within 24 hours, seven of the 10 Republicans on the list had come to me, even though I was despised, against the war and all. ‘What’s this about water pollution, about air pollution? What can you tell us?’ ” For the next few sessions, anything tinged green passed Congress with ease: the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act.
Lastly, I would suggest the NY Times’s interactive timeline: 70 Years of Environmental Change.