Monday, April 27, 2015
What’s the Point of Earth Day?
To many people the 45th anniversary of Earth Day on the 22nd April was just another Wednesday. But the particular Wednesday was rather more momentous than your average day. In honour of the occasion, some one billion people around the world have been getting involved in raising awareness of climate change and doing their bit to accelerate the green economy. That’s an awful lot of voices committed to raising the environment’s profile.
Apart from the obvious gains, there are likely to be solid benefits from the project in terms of public relations as well as economics. Musicians, among them Usher and Gwen Stefani, performed in a concert in Washington DC to raise awareness. The developers behind the Angry Birds video game have created a special Earth Day level called Champions for Earth. And US President Barack Obama a Democrat, celebrated Earth Day with a visit to the Florida Everglades, in the heart of this staunchly Republican state.
There were all sorts of acknowledgements around the world, but how much good will this do for environmental awareness? Will it help make a difference to peoples’ behaviour, the thing that most fundamentally affects the environment? A cynic might think that the hoards of people participating in Earth Day events are interested simply to be part of it, or to take advantage of a global platform that helps promote specific interests. Online discussions about how to communicate climate change facts are all well and good, but what difference do they make?
This misses the point, because the motivation doesn’t matter. The very fact that Earth Day has been celebrated for 45 years is worth acknowledging. Since its founding in the US in 1970 the Earth Day partner network has grown to number over 50,000 members. Members come from all over the world to raise environmental and climate change awareness. So it’s irrelevant if Earth Day tends to encourage grandstanding. In fact for printers and publishers the more the better, because it generates work for printers and gives publishers lots to champion and write about.
Most important of all Earth Day and its global reach shows just how far green awareness has become a part of our social psyche. People born in the last fifty years or so understand that the environment is something we should cherish and protect, at least in theory. Earlier generations came to that awareness gradually. They were taught not to drop litter or waste what can be reused for reasons of politeness or thrift. Later generations simply understand that pollution and waste are bad for the environment. The environment’s part of everyone’s thinking and often informs their purchase decisions, including of print and media products. Something for all of us to keep in mind everyday, not just on Earth Day.
- Laurel Brunner