Ah, Earth Day. The one day out of 365 we’re asked to really take pause and think about the impact we have on the earth (you know, that big round mass beneath our feet that sustains all life on the planet in every way, shape and form?). Seems a bit odd – a bit of a half-hearted nod to the most important thing in all our lives – but I back it 100% and in the final analysis I think it’s worthwhile. It wasn’t too long ago that you would have heard me whistling a different tune, though. Not that I don’t support Earth and think it’s important to raise the issues surrounding sustainability and the environment – I do. It’s just that I might have said Earth Day was a bit of a wasted day. So what changed my mind?
I recently watched Wall-E. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s set in the future and tells the story of a robot left on earth to clean up the mess the humans leave behind. The movie itself is heartwarming and well-told with a decidedly pro-environmentalism message. We’re killing Earth (and ourselves) and only we can really fix it. But it wasn’t the movie that changed my mind. It was a discussion I had with a friend after the fact. He was asking me how I felt about the message, did I think they’d gone too far with their moral outrage and were they brainwashing kids with their earth agenda? But then he said something else (and here I’m paraphrasing):
“When we were kids, the big thing was ‘Don’t Litter’. That was the huge crime you could commit against nature and now that I’m an adult, no one litters. The only thing I ever see on the ground is cigarette butts [ed. note: that still counts as littering] and I don’t know anyone that would willingly throw something on the ground instead of in a waste bin. Then the message was reduce, reuse recycle and now that is catching on, so maybe we should be pushing it further. Because twenty years from now, maybe all those things will seem almost impossible to have thought of any other way.”
I thought that was a really solid point. Back when we were kids, I bet the initial message of “Don’t Litter!” was seen as such a tiny thing it couldn’t possibly have an impact. But now we don’t see a whole lot of trash around these parts. And already the three R’s are taking hold – I bet you’d be hard pressed to find a kid under 10 that doesn’t recycle at every opportunity. So maybe down the line we’ll be saying, “Who wouldn’t turn their lights out/drive an electric car/use their community compost powered hovercraft to purify water?” (or whatever the future may hold. I’m patenting that idea, by the way. Don’t try to steal it…) One day may not seem like much now, but maybe when that becomes normal we’ll up it to a week, and then a month and then… who knows?
Plus, if you take the ‘h’ at the end of earth and move it to the front of the word, you get heart, and what’s not to love about a little word game and a great big world?