During my years as a grassroots environmental activist I’ve become increasingly amused as “Earth Day” rolls around. There are a few exceptions, but generally, if you want to find out what this culture does not value, take a look at what they’ve tossed a bone towards in the form of some symbolic holiday. Veterans Day brings the patriotic/jingoistic hoopla while many veterans are lying homeless on the streets, unable to find employment or adequate healthcare. Black people have been given an entire month (!!!) to celebrate our history while being locked up in veritable concentration camps, gunned down by the police, forced to drink poison, and suffering under horrible economic conditions. Women’s Day is a nice gesture as meanwhile women are treated like dirt the world over. Here in the U.S. a woman is raped every two minutes, the wage gap persists, and there’s still a lack of maternity care. Notice how there’s no “Money Day,” “European History Month,” “Sports Day,” or “Capitalism Day” – it’s taken for granted that these things are important and worth focusing on all the time.
The planet we depend on for life itself is given similar treatment as the groups mentioned above. Earth Day gives the false impression that certain issues are being addressed while in fact the earth is being destroyed faster than ever; nothing substantial is being done to put the brakes on the ravages of industrial capitalism. Species are going extinct at record rates; global warming is reaching exponential levels; CO2 emissions are increasing not decreasing; the permafrost is melting, threatening to release vast quantities of heat trapping methane into the atmosphere… And on and on the list of woes could go.
What makes the situation even more farcical is that there are quite a few non-profits and “environmental justice” organizations floating around, many checks being cashed in the name of saving the environment, and much lip service being paid towards saving the earth and those poor helpless animals. They’ve been at it for decades, yet…the destruction continues unabated and is even intensifying on some fronts. Why? Mostly because very few are willing to risk their privileges in an attempt to seriously challenge the status quo.
“Why don’t you focus on the good things, on our victories,” some might ask. Yes, tell someone who’s being viciously attacked to focus on the fact that the sun is out and the birds are chirping around him. Honestly, some of the retorts I’ve heard to practical questions about what the hell we’re actually going to do amount to people wanting to live in a fairy tale world where things somehow always work themselves out. Ask the people of Iraq or Syria about things somehow working themselves out. Ask those who lived through apartheid or the Holocaust. No, things don’t usually magically work themselves out, and positive thinking or “looking on the bright side” won’t save us. If we want to survive we must face facts and act accordingly.
This is going to be a fairly short post because I’m not going to waste time going over the same old tired reasons for why things are they way they are. We already know, or should know, that capitalism, out of control industrialization, white supremacy, human supremacy, patriarchy, inequality, etc, have built the foundations of the haunted house we find ourselves trapped in. Many people have already perished at the hands of this despicable system and many more are under threat and suffering today while the privileged gatekeepers spew their lofty sounding platitudes and self help slogans. “Create your own reality” they say, and other such malarkey.
Sure, so let’s assume that we can create our own reality. What would it take for us to salvage some livable future for future generations? What’s the best way to create a reality where industrial capitalism doesn’t get a chance to completely wreck the biosphere we and others depend on for survival? Here are a few suggestions:
- Discard strict adherence to non-violence as a viable strategy for protecting the earth and the oppressed. While non-violence is a useful tactic, it must be deployed strategically. If they know you won’t fight back, they have you right where they want you.
- Stop supporting companies and businesses that are engaged in practices that harm our environment. No, really. Stop supporting Apple, stop supporting fast food joints, stop feeding the consumer culture that’s literally killing the planet and harming our health.
- Instead of automatically buying new consumer goods, make an attempt to find a good used version of what you need (clothes, electronics, cars, and appliances, etc).
- Stop telling people to “look on the bright side” or to refrain from “negativity” or “fear mongering”. Climate change and the related environmental crises pose an existential threat to humanity. At this point people should be very alarmed and driven to action, not placated with fairy tales and soothing phrases. Sure, it might not make people feel good to hear we might be fucked, but would you prefer your doctor avoid giving you the bad news, or would you rather he give it to you straight so you can at least have a chance to resolve the problem?
- Support indigenous and POC led environmental groups with your time, money, and whatever resources you have to give. White dominated environmental organizations aren’t doing much of anything anyway and they’ve had their turn for the past 40 or so years, so now let’s try something else.
- Commit to anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, feminist, queer/trans friendly organizational frameworks and organizing praxis. The systems of domination that got us into this mess sure as hell won’t help us get out of it.
- Stop accepting the subordination of environmental issues to every other random thing that’s going on. Yes, intersectionality is important, but we can no longer allow environmental issues to be sidelined and given a backseat in the name of intersectionality, especially when poor people of color stand to lose the most from climate change and environmental degradation.
- Create grassroots networks to financially support those who want to engage in eco-defense and environmental justice projects. People shouldn’t have to choose between eating/paying rent or fighting for a livable future.
- Dismantle and shut down destructive infrastructure that harms our health and environment. Stop thinking about doing it and just do it.
- Understand and internalize the fact that we’re at war. Millions of people, thousands of other species, and vast ecosystems have already been killed or are in the process of being destroyed by this horrible system.
- Understand and internalize that changing our system and wrenching control of it from the greedy psychopaths will not be easy, pleasant, or fun.
- Understand and internalize that we won’t be able to hold onto our current standard of living and save the planet at the same time. If sacrifices aren’t made now (today) there won’t be much of a future for the next generation.
Earth Day might have been a good idea 47 years ago when it was first introduced, but it’s turned into a sham display of concern, a salve on the conscience of an ecocidal society. If we really want to save the earth we must commit to saving it from our own destructive culture. This requires engaging in some introspection and making some hard choices; this means truly and wholeheartedly making every single day earth day, honoring the gifts nature has given us and no longer taking them for granted.
Happy Earth Day™! Now enjoy these delightful Captain Planet and Fern Gully gifs!