Earth Day's Fine, but What About Earth Tomorrow?

If April is considered Earth Month and April 22nd is hailed as Earth Day, I want May -- and for that matter -- the rest of the year to be about Earth Tomorrow.

For me, Earth Day has never been so much an enviro-love fest as a time to take stock of where we're headed.

I do not begrudge those that want to celebrate the uniqueness of our biosphere -- when you stop and think about it, this place is nothing short of astounding; demonstrably unique in the universe. And I laud all those pioneering lawyers, engineers and others that began the modern environmental movement and started the fight a generation ago when America had air once as bad as China's now; when Great Lakes were on life support, and when 12 lane highways through neighborhoods was considered progress.

But capturing the minds of the young and burnishing the patina of grand works past really doesn't cut it for me. I want more. I want the future. I want farmers to incorporate biodiversity into their business plans and still make money. I want DuPont to value bees and still increase yields. I want government employees to act with urgency and effectiveness and still steward the public trust. I want Levi's to put two gallons of water back in stream for every gallon of water the cotton inputs of their blue jeans take out and still be cool. I want advocates to focus not just on winning a lawsuit on paper, but on how those words can be made real on the ground. I want water security to mean more than digging a well in Africa and then leaving it to break. I want to see responses to severe weather events do more than hand out bottled water; I want them to be the start point for adding long-term resilience to collapsed natural freshwater ecosystems. I want to recover a Pacific salmon, not just keep it on the Endangered Species list. I want people to understand the Earth truly is an island with finite capacity, and manage accordingly. I want us to properly account for our impacts and make only intentional tradeoffs that render environmental gain. I want to stop pretending that droughts are anomalous rather than permanent in the Western U.S. As I said, I want more.

And nothing in the list above is impossible. It's just impossible if all we do is more of the same: steady progress on a problem which is expanding exponentially in all directions will not cut it. As a movement, we need Earth Day to get in touch with our transformational roots and, as conservation practitioners, candidly take stock of the current efficacy of our work in as clear-eyed a fashion as we did when this whole thing got started. I think we might see things anew. I sometimes wonder that as a demographic, most of us are too exhausted or too disheartened to lift our eyes to the horizon.

But if we choose to keep our head down and doing more of the same regardless of diminishing returns, or worse yet, quit, others will pick up the mantle of needed innovation to find prosperity in a world of permanent scarcity.

They already are. From tech, Ali Partovi and some of Silicon Valley's most forward thinkers are turning focus to the agricultural/environment interface. From finance, a new breed of investors are starting to lean into a world that better integrates the value of the environment into the economy. Manufacturers began a 'coopetition' to use less materials and resources in design and build.

On Earth Day, where we've come from matters, but where we're headed matters more.