Why Earth Day Still Matters
By David Kenyon
Human beings have always polluted the environment. Of course, we are better at it than other species because we can create complex molecules the wreck havoc on biological systems. I has taken us two hundred years to create global warming. The industrial revolution did not happen in a day nor will its effects be managed in a day.
Clearly, we are in a race against time, but unfortunately, human culture simply does not change quickly - not even in the digital age. It took 450 years to convert the Roman Empire to Christianity. It took 500 years for human beings to emerge from the Dark Ages and re-engage science. We have only just stopped using animals for transportation over these past 100 years.
Real cultural change takes generations. Millennials are the first generation to grow up recycling. They do not need "green technology" or "sustainability" explained to them. Unlike their Baby Boomer parents, many of whom still deny the existence of man-made climate change, Millennials have no such delusions. As the word "organic" has become a mainstay inside of consumer product marketing, "local" is becoming so. Millennials are naturally opposed to global business models and support, instead, village economy.
Whether you realize it or not, this is a leap forward. Each generation will embrace sustainable living and will devote greater and greater research and effort in the pursuit of it. It takes generational shift to change culture. I guess you could say that you cannot teach old dogs new tricks, but you can teach their puppies.
My children grew up going to Earth Day and looking at the various exhibits on waste and the hashed-together electric cars. This year the was something different: two Tesla automobiles. These cars have been dreamed about over the course of a decades of Earth Day celebrations and there they were, parked in front of the Muny at the end of long line of homemade prototypes.
It is a game of inches, changing the way people live. Human beings do not alter their lifestyles easily especially when that alteration requires some measure of austerity. We all want to get our one and only life in under the bell before cars and houses must get smaller. We want to be the last one to pass through the doors of Walmart before rabid consumerism must be reformed. Our children do not understand this. The grow up into what is coming next. They move social consciousness forward one generation at a time.
Earth Day has its quirks. It is hardly a carbon-neutral event judging by the acres of cars that were parked throughout Forest Park. It probably did not occur to many to take the Metro Link to the event. Ameren UE maintains a presence at Earth Day despite being a coal-fire electric company that does pretty much everything in its power to thwart wind and solar power in the region. There are long lines of tents with herbal tonics and dream catchers, though not as many as there used to be. One sign of hope was a new thing called Yoga Buzz. This is apparently a form of flash mob yoga in that yoga practitioners show up at large public events to practice together. There were at least 100 people doing Yoga in the Muny Pavilion and this is new. This is exciting. This is a ray of hope.
The point is that Earth Day despite its quirks and hypocrisies is a conversation that has endured decades. Thousands still show up and if only for a moment contemplate their lifestyles, consider something different, healthier and sustainable. They are not going to find all the answers there, but if their children become curious about raising their own food or why organic is a good thing, then the conversion of consciousness has occurred, if only in small doses. Those children are in the conversation. A conversation that must continue and gather momentum if our species is to survive.
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