Earth Day 2016 is here with the usual hype, but before I go out and buy my eco-friendly party supplies and protest CO2 emissions, I have to ask, “What does it all mean to me?”
As a Millennial, I like to ask questions and think things through. At my age there are many things filling up my time, so in order for something to make it into my life it must be pretty important. So let’s see about Earth Day: Is the need for celebrating and preserving earth from impending destruction, as is often portrayed, relevant to me?
To begin with, the whole idea of instituting Earth Day was to help remind people to think about the environment and what it means to be a responsible resident of earth. So far so good, people need to be reminded of such basic truths, because we are easily distracted. Setting aside one day out of the year to remind ourselves how we impact the earth past, present, and future, and what we can do to be more responsible is admirable.
However, it seems that the day has been hijacked into some sort of bully pulpit for zealous environmentalists to proclaim their message of earth’s imminent global warming demise. Never mind that the proposals to fix this imminent catastrophe often project hazy results in the distant future, while requiring maximum effort and costly expenditures now.
Add to that the highly uncertain, and sometimes contradictory, nature of the alarmist climate change assessments in the first place, and now I am really skeptical. Purely from a cost/benefit point of view, these concerns tend to discount the whole thing in my mind since I can’t afford to waste my time or resources on such nebulous predictions for future doom or salvation. Especially since all the past deadlines for catastrophe have passed with nothing even minor happening, let alone a major catastrophe.
On the other hand, Earth Day also serves as a platform for parts of the green movement seeking to motivate people to work towards a cleaner planet. Cleaning up the environment is a worthy undertaking for everyone since we all benefit from cleaner air, water, and soil. It is also important to remember that although anyone can make a big mess, it takes someone with skill, resources, and know-how to do a good job cleaning it up. In the bigger picture, it is only the most affluent societies that can afford to spend the time, energy, and wealth necessary to successfully mitigate the effects of environmental degradation.
Since affluence is always the first step towards undoing the evils of pollution, it makes sense to invest in the development of poorer countries to give them the chance to rise from poverty to wealth. No matter how much the poor care about their environment, they can do little to improve it because they are primarily occupied with survival.
When your children are starving or receiving no education, will you care about anything else?
Only when people have reached a certain level of prosperity and material comfort do they have the luxury to clean up their mess. It is here that Millennials have the chance to play a crucial role in helping developing regions and countries make it through the growing pains of industrialization, into wealth, and then on to repairing any environmental damage.
It has been said that Millennials are more interested in being part of a group than splitting off individually, and what more group-oriented idea is there than that we are all humans made in the image of God, and that we all matter? We want to help our brothers and sisters around the world live in a healthier environment, but pushing policies that don’t actually “save the planet” but deny poor people access to affordable, reliable energy (without which they will not be able to rise out of poverty) is not good for the earth, or for the men, women, and children dying in poverty.
Life in the 21st century demands that millennials dig their heads out of the sand to work for solutions to very real, local, environmental problems in a responsible, balanced manner. We shouldn’t become scared or crazed over the doom and gloom predictions of global catastrophe, but work towards a better life for individuals—both economically and environmentally.
So how will you spend Earth Day this year? Like any other Friday? Or, as one step of many moving steadily towards a better future for people in poverty? As for this Millennial’s plans: I will not be giving Earth Day a passing nod one day out of 365 but plan to use it as an opportunity to remind myself to live with my friends around the world in mind, and the first step is to support policies that help them rise out of poverty.