We just celebrated the 40th anniversary Earth Day. Earth Day has been a remarkable creation that, over the last 40 years, created awareness of environmental issues. As with many other issues, a coordinated, well promoted day long event has worked well in this media saturated world. Pick a date, work tirelessly for months, create awareness and provoke large numbers of citizens to take part, take action and demonstrate, all to highlight a cause.
As someone who has written numerous columns on my blog about alternative energy, I was inundated these past few weeks with companies, publishers, PR agents, architects, energy start-ups and associations pitching me story ideas related to Earth Day. Every one beating their environmental drum, loudly. This is to be praised and acknowledged. The difference for me was then instead of one or two requests a week to interview someone or write a column, I was getting half a dozen email pitches a day in the weeks leading up to Earth Day. All I kept thinking was: “Make every day like Earth Day, all year long.”
When the first Earth Day occurred in 1970, some 20 million people took part in some way. It was this huge initial success that turbo charged the environmental movement in the U.S. and around the world. It could be argued that the first photo of the whole earth from space taken in 1968, the resultant Whole Earth Catalog, landing a man on the moon in 1969 and then Earth Day a year later were the cluster of events that catapulted environmentalism into popular consciousness. Of course Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”, published in 1962 was a key cornerstone to environmentalism in the U.S. and must always be acknowledged for the seminal event that it was.
What needs to happen how is to start thinking about expanding Earth Day. Not a week, not a month, not a year, but a life. It is often thought that, culturally and socially, a new generation comes along every 20 years. The average life expectancy in the U.S. is 75 years. So, for the sake of simple math, let’s consider a lifetime as 50 years, at least in terms of awareness and being able to act independently and with intention. The 50 years between Earth Day #40 and Earth Day #90 is most likely going to be the most critical years in the environmental history of Earth, history being a human creation.
We must now live an Earth Life. As many of us as possible must consider living an Earth Life for the rest of our days on this planet. String together a lifetime of earth days for 50 years. The amount of environmental change of the last 40 years must be multiplied by some factor if, in 2060 we can look at the planet and feel our respective Earth Lives a success.
To some degree, endlessly debated, we are facing a manmade level of disaster and climate and ecological impact unparalleled in our short history on this planet. We can all agree that humanity has had a huge effect on our planet, particularly as we have grown in number. There are now 6.8 billion people alive. The day I was born there were 2.45 billion, so in my lifetime earth’s population expanded by 4.35 billion. It is expected that by Earth Day 90 there will be an additional 3.2 billion added to the current number for a total of 10 billion.
We must now drop the word “day” and substitute the word “life”. We must celebrate our earth lives. It would be great if every day, not just the weeks leading up to a day in April, I received half a dozen pitches for environmental developments, initiatives, breakthroughs and new product ideas that all supported a greener human society.
Expand this vision even further. Make this century the Earth Century. That is 32,850 earth days remaining. Every day this century is an earth day. Actually, the Earth was here billions of years before us and our efforts are not to save Earth, as it will survive, but to save life as we know it and currently define it. Perhaps we should change the language and make it the Life Century because if we don’t live the rest of our days as earth days, it is the Life on this planet that will be threatened.