I have been long frustrated with the drift of Earth Day into irrelevance. I helped organize the first Earth Day in Las Vegas, 1970, when I was 18 years old. I and my one-year-older friends who were attending the university had a lot of hope for the future and really wanted a celebration of the earth, and of the change we know had to happen. In the years since, regulation has solved a lot of our pollution problems, but forward progress on that has stalled, and been reversed by the present administration. Most people are now far more disconnected from the earth than were people back then, spending a lot of time with devices and very little with the earth. So, I’d like to suggest some ideas for the next Earth Day.
First, it is a weekend, not one day. One of the days, everyone heads for natural environments, and spends time there with friends and family, sans electronic devices. For large numbers of people in the US, access to natural areas is difficult, and almost requires a car. So I’d encourage carpooling and provision of free public transit on that day. Nationwide. In Sacramento, we are fortunate to have the American River Parkway and several other natural areas not far from transit, so long trips are not necessary. Yes, I’m serious.
The second day (the order is not important to the concept), we all gather and shut down a major road, creating an open street event. No permits, this is an action of the people having nothing to do with government and police. If the agencies who populated the booths at last year’s Earth Day really feel they have something to say and share, they can come, bring some displays and materials, as much as they can bring on a cargo bike. No driving. People will be strongly discouraged from driving to the event, in all of the publicity, so it needs to be somewhere close to transit so that people can make their entire trip, or at least the last part, on transit. Again, free transit for the day. Nationwide. The electric vehicles, which have nearly taken over Earth Day the last few years, are not welcome. They are not a significant part of the solutions we need. Electric cars running entirely on solar energy is a dream that is many years away, and in the meanwhile they are still really running on fossil fuels and nuclear energy. The better solution is just to not use cars at all. Yes, I’m serious.
The point is that the people take back Earth Day from the sponsors, and make it an event of the people. People spend the two days talking about how they can change their lives, and how we can come together to change culture and society. Hopefully we commit to taking action every day to end fossil fuels, but also end consumption and inequity and income inequality, take back our government from the rich and the corporations, end industrial agriculture, and house everyone. Earth Day should be the first day of radical action to make the world a better place. Yes, I’m serious.
Since hopefully everyone is participating in these two days, much of business as usual stops. If it doesn’t have to do with caring for and celebrating people and the earth, it doesn’t need to happen. Yes, I’m serious.