Earth Day: Four decades on

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The year 1970, April 22 of that year to be precise, saw the first Earth Day. It came about very much as a result of the concerns for our Planet bought forth by a new consciousness of the Hippie Movement which, basically, gave birth to an eco-consciousness and the Green Movement. But, are we any further now than we were then?

Personally I do not think that we have advanced much since then and in many aspects we may even have gone backwards.

I grew up during the heydays of the Hippie Movement and what was talked about then, the pollution of the Planet, our disregard for Mother Earth, etc., is still very much the same today, as it was then; in some aspects even more so and worse.

Already in the days when glass was still the choice container for beverages, etc., with most of them being reused – a deposit was on most bottles way back then still – nigh on forever, we already were concerned about all the packaging and over-packaging of things and the resultant waste. Then came plastic bottles, blister packs, etc., and the world has never been the same, literally.

It is true that most plastics used in packaging can, today, be recycled. But the great majority of it is not and that is a fact, sad as it may be.

We talk ourselves into believing that if we but recycle all this packaging then all will be alright. Now, instead of reusing, as we did way back then, we even break up glass bottles and jars to recycle them. But why? And what do we recycle them into?

No, they are, predominately, not recycled back into bottles and jars. Instead they are made into other products; things that were created in order to use this broken up glass.

So, where are the improvements? Where are the changes for the better we hoped would come? Most never materialized.

We have now wasted, yes, wasted, over forty years by not transitioning to a fossil fuel free economy and society and by not developing an alternative way of living and life to the one we have kept pursuing.

Instead of reducing our impact on the Planet the nations have plowed on regardless and have destroyed many more ecosystems and many more species have become extinct since. And, if we are not very careful, man will become extinct as well and that time might not be all that far off if we continue the way we do. The Earth can very well live without us but we cannot live without Her. It is as simple as that, and Mother Earth is ailing presently and is very unwell.

As I have said, I do remember the old Hippie days and the hope we shared – I said HOPE, not dope – that we could make the world a better place and clean up and preserve the Planet.

Alternative communities, some called them also communes, sprang up trying to show the way and some are still shining beacons to this very day, such as and especially Christiania in Denmark and Tinker's Bubble in Britain, to name but two.

The rest of the world, however, bar a few of us, fell prey to the propaganda of our governments and to advertising and the spend, spend, spend attitude. Good for the economy, they said and still do say. Yes, in the same way that Hitler said that what he was doing was good for the economy.

Even the “green economy” today of “green”, recycled, etc., is a rip off and is ripping off people left, right and center. Much of it is total and utter greenwash and nothing more and the much hyped Eco-Button for the PC is but one example; bamboo and especially bamboo flooring another.

In the 1970s one of our great concerns was pollution from cars, from industry, from power stations, etc.; pollution of air, water, soil, and acid rain. And while some clean up has happened over the years, such as the removal of lead out of gasoline, for instance, today the talk and emphasis has shifted to carbon-dioxide emissions and their reduction and carbon offsetting and carbon trading is claimed to be the way to go in that field. General pollution, which is still there and is causing problems for man and the environment, is being left by the wayside and is not really being tackled.

This is because CO2, that is to say, carbon, is becoming a tradeable commodity and thus lots of money can be made by certain sectors in using it.

Carbon trading and carbon certificates are the modern-day indulgences, much like those sold by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, and are licenses to continue sinning which, in this case, means polluting.

Earth Day must be every day and not just one day a year

Already back in the nineteen-seventies we were concerned that the way we used resources, we were concerned about consumption, often consumption for the very sake of it, the more, more, more, the keeping up with the Joneses, whoever they may be.

But, in those four decades that followed things have gotten worse rather than better in that field. We have had it drummed into us in those years and decades that followed that more and bigger is better, that it is better for us and for the economy. Nobody thought anymore, bar a few, about the Planet and about the finite nature of most resources.

Since those days, in the name of progress, the world, in the main, has continued with “business as usual”, to the detriment of the Planet and resources and the poor. We are now very close to actual total peak oil, regardless of what the oil industry and our governments may like to have us believe, and we have arrived at the very end of cheap and abundant oil, and many other resources also are reaching their peak or have gone well beyond that point, and some have even run out altogether.

We also now have more pollution, more packaging waste, than ever, we are running out of holes in the ground in which to bury our trash, and the Earth is being defaced and destroyed. Mountain top removal mining, tar sand exploitation, shale gas fracking, etc., are seriously threaten the health of the Planet and everyone on it, and let us not even talk about the overfishing of the seas, the pollutions of water courses and oceans, and the ultimate threat that nuclear power stations and their waste represent to us all, as the governments in the UK and the USA (and a few other nations) keep pursuing this dangerous affair. The Fukushima incident should have given us the final warning not that we should have needed one after Chernobyl.

The Hippies in the 1960s and 1970s warned us about all those issues already way back then and while it nowadays has become rather chic to be Hippie our governments do not want to heed the warnings and do not want to see the necessity to change because they are all in the pockets of the oil, coal and chemical industry, including Monsanto. That is also the very reason that they are pushing for genetically modified plants and animals.

It is true that the “Green Movement”, to some extent, has grown since those first days but in many instance now greensumption has come into play and is taking the place of ordinary consumption and greenwash is on the rise everywhere. Green is the new Black and it is being exploited.

The idea was to get away from consumerism and not to replace one form with another. But exactly that has happened and many people think that they cannot afford to go “green” as they cannot afford all those “green” products and organic produce. Who but (green) advertising has put that notion into their heads.

It is now over four decades since the first Earth Day but, in reality, we are not much further than we were back in 1970. We really need to get our skates on.

© 2012