April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day! Please don't buy a cheap t-shirt….

Happy Earth Day! Today is the 40th celebration of Earth Day. It was the brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson in an attempt to bring what he believed - in 1962 – to be an “environmental crisis” to the forefront of social commentary. Only 4 years after the first Earth Day celebration we saw the emergence of ecofeminism. Ecofeminists believe that the oppression of women (as well as other races and the LGBTQ community) and the oppression of nature are interconnected, and that man’s domination over nature is what led to a patriarchal society. Obviously, the environmental movement would feel a kindred spirit, so to speak, in this ideology and vice versa. 

I’m not one to box myself in with labels….wait, vegetarian, feminist, environmentalist, activist, communist……ok, maybe I am. So, since I’m already all boxed in, I definitely feel that the ecofeminist movement is most near and dear to my heart. There are critics of all tenets of feminism and we all seem to fall into one or another (but, maybe many) little sub-sects of the greater whole; I happen to fall here.

In 1970, the environmental movement was really just starting to blossom as a social movement. With the help of this article published in the New York Times Senator Nelson created an event that I think every Earth Day since should envy:

“Rising concern about the “environmental crisis” is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam…a national day of observance of environmental problems, analogous to the mass demonstrations on Vietnam is being planned for next April…..

Students, activists, environmentalists and ideologues sprang to action. And, just a few months later, an estimated 20 million Americans participated in Earth Day events on April 22, 1970. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeway and expressway revolts, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlifesuddenly realized they shared common values.

With all that invigorating history, a movement that today – of all times in history – is more active and energized, and my self-identification as an ecofeminist – you would think I’d be a lot more excited about Earth Day than I am.

The celebration of Earth Day 2010 seems to be something else altogether. With global climate change on every  other front  page publication (despite doubters) and cheap t-shirts that say, “Recyle” and “Eco Warrier” it seems that these issues have been appropriately brought to center stage….and appropriately transformed into something “consumable.” So, the people who truly care seem & believe in environmental responsibility have become….cheap t-shirt wearing, reusable bag carrying (sometimes), Prius driving zombies. And, the corporations who only want to seem like they care have done their jobs convincing consumers that they do. A la Walmart and Chevron’s greenwashing campaigns. Or, how about SunChips attempt to completely revamp their image? Your (genetically modified corn) chips even come in a compostable bag now! But…wait…aren’t they a Frito Lay company? And, Frito Lay is a PepsiCo company. And, PepsiCo is one of the worst environmental offenders. “Green?” Seriously? *Yawn*

So, here’s my Earth Day wish - do something real. Plant an organic garden (feminism and food are inextricably linked; and, it’s much easier than you think) or a tree. Volunteer for an environmental organization (even if just for a day). Try to reduce the number of times you flush your toilet (that’s 1.6 gallons of water EVERY time, California folks). Start to compost (also, much easier than you think). What I don’t want you to do…buy a ridiculous t-shirt that advertises your position on environmental issues and simply makes you feel like you’ve done something good for the Earth. We can’t all be No Impact Man, but actually making real, tangible changes in our daily lives is what creates the most change and sets an example for those who want to make change, but aren’t sure how.

Now go laugh a little before you get to work……


3 Comments »

  1. Amen! I was tempted by Ellen’s “Laugh, Dance, Recycle” T-shirt until I realized that was defeating the point.

    Comment by Rhonda — April 22, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

  2. Okay, now you made me feel bad.
    I have a couple of “environmental” T-shirts; and more reusable grocery bags than I need. But– I do those other things, too. I have a compost pile. I even leave my toilet unflushed. (If it’s yellow…) Does that count?
    By wearing a “message” T-shirt, I’m spreading the message. I’ve got to wear something; it might as well be something I believe in.

    Comment by Moonbird — April 22, 2010 @ 9:58 pm

  3. Oh! Not intended to make you feel bad! Motivate you?? Maybe! ;) I have a small army of re-usable grocery bags myself (I’m also obsessed w/ keeping and reusing those plastic bags they use in the produce dept! Why is ok to throw THOSE away, but not the bags w/ handles?!) But, that can’t be the only lifestyle change we make if we actually want to create change! We all started with baby steps…

    Comment by Lani — April 23, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

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