EARTH DAY 2009--Just Before Logging Off

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I went by train today to New Haven to visit my International Society for Industrial Ecology office at Yale. To my surprise and delight, the cab driver turned to me before we pulled away from the station and handed me a tote of recycled materials and a well-designed information card. The tote carried an Earth Day logo and the company name, Metro Cabs. Nice way to start the day.

On the positive side, the day continued with a highly complimentary note from a faculty member at Penn State who had just read my book. Such feedback always makes my day, but coming on Earth Day, this seemed extra special.

Then I sat down and did my usual web searches looking, today, for more positive material to add to this post. Maybe I am getting jaded or my critical filter was in full sway, but I could not find anything much that set this day apart from an ordinary day on the Web. Google changed their logo on their main page for the occasion. A humorous collection entitled, You’re Doing it Wrong: Five Earth Day Pitches That Failed from Greenbiz. Here’s their first choice.

First Prize: Organic Spa Magazine

This isn’t really going to be a ranked list, but one pitch stands head and shoulders above all the other silly pitches, the not-really-green pitches, and everything else that crossed our paths this year. This pitch, from something called “Organic Spa Magazine,” really deserves special attention for having missed the mark so completely:

“Go Organic In Time for Earth Day With the New Lauren SPA Collections from Ralph Lauren”

Please, go back and read that line again again. Something about that combination of words makes my blood boil and my eyes burn. It just screams “missing the point” in every imaginable way.

Then this one popped up. From the NYTimes Green Inc. blog—A Decline in ‘Green Guilt

According to a new survey commissioned by the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation, a non-profit group formed by the rechargeable battery industry to promote battery recycling, just 12 percent of Americans now feel guilty that they’re not doing everything they can for the environment. That’s down from 22 percent in last year’s survey.

Earth Day shouldn’t be about guilt at all. If guilt is what drives people to think about and care about the Earth and other people as well, the outlook for sustainability as flourishing is not so good. Worse, one explanation for this drop given in the article is that people care less about the environment in bad economic times. This follows from a culture that puts monetary value on everything. Caring for the world and for others is not something that can be monetized any more than sustainability, flourishing, health, or any similar desirable quality can be measured. Maybe next year, after we have struggled for a while with the new circumstances we find ourselves in these days, Earth Day will be reborn as a celebration of flourishing for all life on Earth.

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