Celebrate Earth Day, Mitigate Climate Change?

Earth Day. Is this another ill-fated event that does nothing to confront climate change? As some of my regular readers may have noted, I tend to take issue with fluffy events that claim to put environmental issues first but do little to advance their cause.

You might be surprised to hear that I think Earth Day isn’t one of those events. I actually have a major soft spot for Earth Day. As a six-year old living just outside Boston, I remember a local tree nursery was giving away free trees. That day, I took home a small blue spruce and planted it in a neighbor’s yard since my apartment building had no yard. To this day, on the rare occasions I drive through my old neighborhood, I look for that blue spruce. Sadly, while the memory of the spruce is fresh, the memory of the neighbor’s address isn’t.

Could that moment have led me to this point in my life? Could a 24” tree wrapped in burlap and cradled in my six-year old hands have inspired me to care about the planet and feel so passionately about solving climate change? I have a hard time thinking one event determined the next 23 years. Still, it did leave quite an impression.

In reflecting on Earth Day and remembering my six-year old amazement, I realize that while I might disagree with events like Earth Hour and with scientists turned political actors, I also understand that those events and actions might inspire a six-year old or a 26 year old or a 106 year old to suddenly care about climate change. More importantly, they may even inspire those people to do something about it.

One of the things I find myself thinking about more and more is the value of direct action (NASA’s top climate scientist not withstanding). The term “direct action” could not matter more when it comes to confronting climate change. Our direct actions are what have gotten us to this point. And a change in our direct actions is what will hopefully stave off the worst effects of climate change.

Unlike Earth Hour, which proposes regressive (though at least direct) actions, Earth Day promotes a whole bevy of direct, progressive actions. And best of all, their repeatable and/or will have lasting benefits. If that spruce stayed healthy, its still sequestering carbon today. It’s also providing shade in the summer, lowering energy bills and emissions. And perhaps if that neighbor is still there, that spruce is reminding them that others care about this planet and want to make it a better place.

So cheers to Earth Day. Take the bus to your local park and enjoy some organic fresh-pressed lemonade (or appropriately seasonal and local beverage). Or go plant a tree. It might not change the world in that very moment. But hopefully it will continue to push our society towards a tipping point where meaningful actions will be taken against climate change. While you’re at, check out the other Justmeans editorial sections for other unique takes on Earth Day.

Photo Credit: Flickr