Thursday, 22 April 2010

An Internal Celebration of Earth Day

by Melinda Briana Epler, One Green Generation

April 22 marks the 40th year Earth Day has been celebrated around the world. Over the last several years, I have watched it become increasingly a holiday about green products. And that is not to say that green products are bad - I'm ecstatic that there are so many wonderful alternatives to the things I need on a daily basis. I remember when I first became an environmentalist in college in the 90s. It was a tough world to be in - many people thought we were nuts. There were few alternatives to eating sustainably - farm raised anything couldn't be found, organic was not a word I ever remember using, and very very few clothes or other daily items were sustainably made. So there are good things about a push toward green products and green consumerism, for sure.

But this year I'm searching for a more internal, reflective celebration of Earth Day.

Last night I saw Bill McKibben speak. His book Deep Economy was one of those books that really came at the right time for me. Just before I read the book I was just coming to the conclusion that living sustainably was more than living self-sufficiently, was more than eating locally and going back to the basics. I was just coming to the conclusion that living sustainably had a lot to do with living, growing, and nurturing a community around you, and helping those around you to live sustainably too.

So Bill McKibben has a place in my heart as being there at the right time, and writing the right things that really helped gel a lot of ideas beginning to form in my mind. It was really lovely to see him speak last night.

He was hopeful. Not hopeful that we would stop global warming - it has already started - but hopeful that we can collectively stand up and act, and make change happen together. We can work together to make it a priority worldwide to focus on other people besides our selves, other consequences outside of ourselves. On the 10th of October of this year (10-10-10), he and those at are encouraging an international Get to Work day, where all of us spend the day working in our communities, working to create change, working to start the ball rolling and things moving in the right direction.

When I see photographs of polar bears stranded on islands of ice, children in India suffering from flooding, and our own forests in the northwestern US becoming barren lands, I feel a bit of myself being wounded. But when I see that all of you care, that people from every country on the planet care … it lifts me up and makes me feel hopeful.

Today I'm going to spend the day working harder and working deliberately. I am a part of the Earth, and the Earth is a part of me. Where there are some people and some companies that are negative forces pushing us toward further devastation in the coming years, I am the other side: I am the balance. You and I together can balance the negative forces on this planet with positive good that we bring.

When someone cuts down a tree, we plant one. When a company puts carbon in the air, we plant another garden plot to absorb and counteract it. While people stand in line at MacDonald's, we stand in line at farmer's markets. As banks fail nationally and globally, we lift up local businesses sprouting in their place. As someone discards a near-new object, we pick it up in a thrift store and wear it out. We are the balance. We are the hope.

Today I'm going to work harder and more deliberately to be the balance I can be, to be the change internally, to see the change locally, and to catalyze the change globally.

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day This Year?