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Who Doesn't Like Earth Day?

\r\n\r\nMost people will spend today at least giving lip service to the idea of Earth Day, by making a special effort to recycle or walking a few...

Most people will spend today at least giving lip service to the idea of Earth Day, by making a special effort to recycle or walking a few extra blocks instead of driving. But on two very different sides of the eco-political spectrum are groups that don't give a damn about Earth Day. Here's a look at who they are:On the right:Conservative commentators often rail against Earth Day as anti-progress and anti-capitalist. Their fears are that those who recognize Earth Day want to bring our society back to a time when we weren't making an impact on the Earth, which would probably mean no computers or cars or planes, and most importantly, no capitalism. The amusing coincidence that Earth Day is also Vladimir Lenin's birthday really kills on the conservative blogs (here and here are the 2009 versions of the same joke, posted on the same blog a few hours apart. April 22 is also the birthday of Dutch postage stamp artist Gielijn Escher. No one writes about that unsettling coincidence, though). Certainly this anti-capitalist position exists (here is Michelle Malkin citing Bolivian President Evo Morales saying just that), but it's not really what most people at the Earth Day concert are thinking of when they try a little harder to recycle.


A common anti-Earth Day action is to do something bad for the environment: Rush Limbaugh encourages driving long distances. Another popular technique is to mention how, despite problems with environment, the environment still... exists; John Miller, writing on the National Review's blog last year, cited the fact that an Earth Day concert was threatened by rain as evidence that environmentalists did not understand the environment: "How are we supposed to trust these people on climate change if they can't even tell the truth about what's happening right on their own heads?"A few weeks ago, during Earth Hour, when people around the world were asked to turn their lights off for an hour to demonstrate solidarity with an effort to lower worldwide carbon consumption, conservatives gave a nice preview of their attitudes about Earth Day by launching a competing Human Achievement Hour. The hour seemed to consist of very little tangible action besides a video showing technological advancements from fire to spaceships to Jimi Hendrix (though Limbaugh claimed he turned on all the lights in all his five houses for the entire hour). The Earth Hour versus Human Achievement Hour dichotomy is a great illustration of the conservatives' Manichean view on the environment: any attempt at conservation must come at the expense of growth and the markets.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJX0-edz1wEOn the left:As eco-consciousness has gained popular appeal in recent years, some of the people at the forefront of the movement have gotten a little fed up. Our environment, they say, is in serious trouble and requires serious solutions. Dilettante environmentalists who recycle one bottle a week aren't going to cut it, and the only thing Earth Day does is pat people on the back who aren't doing close to enough. In other words, the small steps we are often encouraged to take are not enough for those people who feel that Earth Day is merely a band-aid.Last year, a few days before Earth Day, Alex Steffen and Sara Rich wrote on Worldchanging that: "The biggest problem with Earth Day is that it has become a ritual of sympathy for the idea of environmental sanity. Small steps, we're told, ignoring the fact that most of the steps most frequently promoted (returning your bottles, bringing your own bag, turning off the water while you brush your teeth) are of such minor impact (compared to our ecological footprints) that they are essentially meaningless without larger, systemic action as well."

This year, the environmental blog Grist is leading the charge with their Screw Earth Day campaign, which basically has the same message: One day is not enough. What do these anti-Earth Day zealots advocate instead? Well, that is where things get a little confusing. The systemic change we need simply can't come on the individual level, it needs to come from government and businesses, and so people should still be doing the little things (Grist advocates finding and eliminating vampire energy in your house), they just shouldn't feel like what they're encouraged to do is making any difference.