So today marks something called Earth Day and as a blogger, I'm somehow expected to prattle on about saving the earth today. Well, I would if the earth indeed needed to be saved.
The simple fact of the matter is that the earth doesn't need to be saved. The earth will continue spinning away as it circles the sun and so it will go until it meets a force strong enough to stop it. If this were about avoiding a collision with another planet I'd be all about saving the earth. But that's not what this is about. This is about preserving an earth fit for human habitation. For the life of me I'll never understand why, but that underlying motive never makes it into discussions about Earth Day. Ignoring self interest will doom a movement that has some real potential to bring about meaningful and lasting change and that's a shame.
Into the void left by an unspoken motive floods all manner of absurdity that culminates in a rejection of science and the scientific method. Odd, since science is the only means to identify a problem and the only valid way to prescribe a course of corrective action.
It's an unarguable point that's it's better practice to use natural resources efficiently so that they'll last longer. Equally valid and unarguable is that the judicious use of limited natural resources saves money. Why then is it laudable to switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs to "save the earth," but making the same switch in order to save money is suspect? Why set a side a day to plant a tree in your front yard so you can "save the earth?" If that tree gets irrigated with potable water and fertilized with phosphorus and nitrogen that foul whatever waterway your street drains into, what' the point?
I was going to write something flippant and caustic for today so I went to Treehugger.com to gather some of their inflammatory rhetoric to pick apart. That site gets on my nerves in more ways than I can count, mostly because I agree with them in principle. It's their delivery, the environmentalist pose, that I can't bear. The occasional valid point made gets lost in a fog of irrationality and emotion and in the end they lose me. As a case in point, I came across an article by Jasmin Malik Chua there that I found particularly enraging, No Kidding, One in Three Children Fear Earth Apocalypse.
There's a new bogeyman lurking in the closet, and this one isn't imaginary. Us. One out of three children aged 6 to 11 fears that Ma Earth won't exist when they grow up, while more than half—56 percent—worry that the planet will be a blasted heath (or at least a very unpleasant place to live), according to a new survey.Commissioned by Habitat Heroes and conducted by Opinion Research, the telephone survey polled a national sample of 500 American preteens—250 males and 250 females.
The results of that poll are reported as cold, hard fact by Chua and received as good news by most of the commenters. The idea being that children have a wisdom all of us corrupted adults lack. Please. As if these kids came up with these irrational fears on their own. These poor kids are parroting back the fuzzy-headed propaganda they hear from every quarter.
Congratulations to Treehugger, Earth First, the Animal Liberation Front and all of the rest of the nutjobs who set the agenda for what's now a mainstream movement. 25 years worth of emotion-led, irrational arguments have succeeded in scaring the crap out of a generation of kids. It's unnecessary and it's also dishonest. This does little to advance a goal of having people use resources more intelligently.
Not only that, you've set yourselves up for a backlash that gets played out every afternoon on such popular entertainments as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.
Yes, the earth is getting warmer and what there is to do is minimize the coming changes and prepare for the changes that can't be avoided. Telling a generation that they have no hope for a future doesn't do that. In fact, it does the opposite. It encourages them to do nothing because all hope is lost. All the energy spent on fear mongering could just as easily have been spent on explaining scientific concepts and introducing them to a framework of critical thinking. But I suppose it's easier to manipulate than it is to educate and that seems to work on both sides of the aisle.
So on this Earth Day, and the 364 earth days that follow it, why not ignore the hype? When you see Gwenyth Paltrow start to move her pouty lips, turn off the TV. Rather than listening to Gwyneth or Madonna or Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly, whattya say you get your science from scientists and entertainment from entertainers?
As a species, we have a couple of situations that need to be addressed, sooner rather than later. These problems are by and large human-caused. The solutions will also be human-caused in the form of human endeavor, human technology and human science. It's in our best interest to adopt the behaviors suggested by the greatest minds in our time and it's OK to call self interest self interest. Be more efficient, be smarter, spend less money, think about the long term. Most important of all, elect politicians who are capable of thinking in the long term.
Earth Day? Eh. Being smarter and more rational every day? Sign me up.