Earth Day was first celebrated on 22 April 1970. I only became aware of Earth Day in 1990 when, by chance, I watched a celebrity-laden American television special creating awareness about the state of Mother Earth, who was played by Bette Midler. It was all a bit, how shall I put it? Silly. At that stage, people spoke about global warming, not climate change, and I was in denial about both of them. That was why the one part that stood out for me was a conversation between Everyman and Every Lawyer – played by Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman. A jittery Williams confides that he is worried about pollution and the sustainability of practices. A smarmy Hoffman puts him at ease with glibly eloquent yet spurious reassurances.
I thought it settled the argument: there is no climate problem and if there is, big science will solve it.
Looking at it again recently on YouTube I realized it was too subtle for me. Its message is twofold: climate change is a complex issue, and don’t believe smooth-talking spin doctors. Or at least listen to all sides of the debate. Ask questions. Starting with this one: who has a vested interest, or who stands to make money from pursuing a certain line of reasoning?
Earth Day has never been big in South Africa. Probably because many people are too busy scrabbling a living to bother, or perhaps they would if it were a public holiday. Earthday.Org is the website to go to for information. Or perhaps not. Its section on Africa is still stuck in 2022, but I am sure that can be fixed by a webmaster with a quick ‘find and replace action’.
This year’s Earth Day theme is: Invest in Our Planet. That means: give and take.
Simply taking is not sustainable.
22 April is an arbitrary date. Much like one’s birthday, one day earlier or later doesn’t really make a difference, but like a birthday or anniversary, it is a good practice to set aside a day to celebrate and take stock and make resolutions.
The website also reminds us: It’s Not a Day, It’s a Movement, not to be forgotten – like Christmas – till next year.
I would like to add my own unoriginal two cents: Don’t try to save the planet on your own. Invest what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.
[I’m paraphrasing Squire Bill Widener of Widener’s Valley, Virginia, not Oprah]
If we all reduce our carbon footprint and recycle our trash and be mindful of our interaction with the planet for a few minutes every day, we’ll make a massive difference.