Saturday, 23 April 2011

The Hangover

On Boxing Day you wake to the realities of Christmas over-spending.

On New Years, the trepidation of a coming year that may be laced with a too-much-champagne headache.

So what about Earth Day? Judging from several headlines the environmental movement is becoming more than a bit skeptical about Earth Day after 41 years:
Can't say I disagree, but I have to ask: what is the result of inserting a cynical overtone?

Even David Suzuki in his 2010 Earth Day message acknowledged some of the steady progress being made toward improving our world, acknowledging much work remains.

It appears more and more companies are using Earth Day as a platform for promotions, adopting it much like a new consumer holiday, sandwiched amongst Valentines, Easter and Mother's Day. On one hand this allows companies who are sustainable year round to tout what they do. Often, however, it does appear to enable those without strong commitments to wave the 'green' options or special offers they only provide at this time of year, or on request. The transience of this kind of commitment can be frustrating for those trying to make Earth Day everyday.

But back to the original question: is cynicism of Earth Day efforts and events productive to achieving the overall goal of a year-round commitment to sustainable business?

Partially, yes. The power of media and opinion leaders to critique hollow sustainability commitments poses a potential risk that may drive companies to ongoing, continuous programs that support sustainability. Fear and risk, after all, can be exceptionally effective motivators.

However, for the individual citizen how does it feel to have your participation in Earth Day judged as a hollow, ineffective exercise? How about shamed? How about guilty? How about 'bad'? How about unlikely to attempt again? Feels a bit like being the kid singled out because they gave the wrong answer in class, or brought something foolish to show and tell. Are these really the feelings we want to be associated with our movement?

What are your thoughts?


Tahira Endean said...

While far from being a perfectly green citizen, I try, along with my family, their school and the community we live in to each day, make choices that make sense for ourselves and the world we live in. There is no shame in that.

If we can all just do our little part, the end result has to be a collectively better place we leave behind. If we sandwich in one day that reminds people, is that a better thing to do, with all its imperfections, than to not do?

Shawna McKinley said...

Thanks for commenting Tahira - glad you're not affected by the cynicism. And I don't think we should hold ourselves to perfection. Doing better in the little ways we can is so important. Celebrate the day, act all year round - working on that motto for myself to avoid the crash next year :)