Plastic is evil, people are a blight on the planet, we must reverse global warming, save the whales and baby seals, hug a tree, and so on and so forth.
I’m a conservationist, not an environmentalist.
Earth Day is, in my opinion, a pointless exercise in guilt-mongering that does nothing to improve the quality of the physical environment or to advance conservation. It began as part of the environmental branch of the civil rights movement, inspired in part by Silent Spring. The first one was on the Vernal Equinox in 1970 and featured a teach-in. The idea was picked up, moved to April 22 (which coincides with V. L. Lenin’s birthday, interestingly enough) and became an official “day of doing something.” One of the more colorful characters involved with the first Earth Day was Ira Einhorn, an activist who claimed to have been one of the founders, but who was more of a master of ceremonies for one of the local events. He also murdered his girlfriend.
I do my best to ignore Earth Day. This year’s theme is getting rid of plastic pollution. I’m all for that. I’m not fond of seeing plastic bags in strange places, or finding bottles that missed the nearby garbage bin. OTOH someone will trot out the garbage island in the Pacific (which doesn’t exist), the micro-beads (which don’t exist) and photos of critters strangling on six-pack rings. I’d rather see people forming groups to go pick-up litter and trash in parks and other places, and planting native trees and flowers, and doing stuff that actually makes the place cleaner and nicer for everyone.
I’m a conservationist. I believe in making the best use of something, for as long as possible, in ways that benefit the most people. That can include renewable forestry, nuclear power, mining, setting aside areas as national and state parks, encouraging wildlife habitat restoration, putting up bee and bat boxes, using less water for some things and using water properly for others. It doesn’t mean impoverishing people for the sake of plants and animals, or driving people off their farms and out of their communities “to preserve the environment” or to plant trees for carbon credits. I’m all for nature parks where people can actually, you know, go see nature. Not fenced and walled off “pristine” areas restricted to scientists and big donors. I’m cool with a conservation easement. I’m not cool with conservation easements so large that they almost bankrupt counties by removing large swaths of the tax base.
Instead of Earth Day, learn about what is native to your region and plant some. Catch rainwater and use it to water your plants if you can. Grow your grass longer and use a mulching mower. Hang up a bee box for native bees. Help tidy a local park. Put out a bird feeder and bird bath. Plant flowers that butterflies like. Buy things that last and use them well. That’s how we can “save the Earth.”