It's Not the Planet That Needs Saving, or, Why Earth Day's All Wrong

It's not the planet that needs saving. The Earth, no matter how badly we abuse it, is going to be just fine. (At least for about 5 billion years until the sun goes all red giant and torches this third rock.) It has overcome worse scourges than what we're dealing it now. It adapts. It self-corrects. Over time, anything that causes too much harm to the global ecosystem is wiped out.

Nope, it's not Earth that needs saving. It's us.

Earth Day, with its "save the planet" rhetoric and high-handed prescription of pithy, low-impact lifestyle solutions, has come to represent the worst of the environmental movement -- its marginalization and materialization.

Don't get me wrong, it was a noble idea at first. On the first Earth Day in 1970, people around the world really did need to be shaken into understanding how we, as humans, affect the world - -the ecological systems -- around us. But like so many tools our environmental forefathers handed down to us, it has failed miserably to adapt and react to the scale of the crises we face. So on this April 22, 2008, as scores of non-profit organizations email out fundraising appeals and trend-savvy companies bolster their eco-cred by sponsoring parties and concerts and expos, I can't help but shake my head and wonder how we continue to get it so wrong. How we, as environmentalists, keep willingly pushing this singular day as some sort of blessed holiday -- this random day in April, all-too-easily forgotten by May -- to celebrate all the "solutions" (organic t-shirts! "Ten Ways to Green Your Life" lists! biodegradable forks!) that won't get us anywhere close to where we need to be to truly deal with the ecological crises at hand. Crises that the Earth will easily, given a few thousand years, rebound from, but we, as a species, may well not.