Arbor Day -- now, that's a day that makes good sense. You go out, you plant a tree. And that entails taking care of it, initially more and then gradually less, as it settles in. And so you can figure out a few things about trees. But Earth Day? What is that? Just another excuse to delude ourselves.
Years ago, it used to be common to have big "Earth Day" concerts, which of course produced massive environmental wear-and-tear in the form of a major expenditure of power (because nothing can be celebrated in America without really bad music played really loud), tons of trash (how many tons was always duly reported in the papers the next day), the poisonous mills needed for all the souvenir T-shirts (just as necessary as bad music), plus of course all the cars required to get you to and fro. I think there was a vague sense that it was all about the sun, in some sort of healing way, possibly though not necessarily connected to solar energy. I remember seeing an ad for I think Hallmark that said "Send Earth Day cards printed on recycled paper!" Or don't send cards for the phony holiday at all, I thought, and spare the paper use that way. My favorite memory of this holiday is walking past the Hynes Convention Center in Boston and reading on the big marquee The American Chemical Society Salutes Earth Day!
Everything is a marketing opportunity, which is the daemon of consumer capitalism. Believe me, I have as hard a time with discipline, cutting back, doing without, and all those other necessary virtues, or virtuous necessities, as anyone else. But even in the almost ten years I've lived in this house, I've noticed significant weather changes: there are far more days of truly strong winds, for example. The winters seem colder longer (or is that just a sign that I'm aging? and how odd that that would be preferable to the climatic alternative).
Yes, among the duly noted ironies is that I can type this on a computer and send it around the world. But you might as well live in the world you're in while you can, always remembering the motto of the doctors (or is it art restorers?): first, do no harm. That's not an easy rule. At the gym I belonged to until I quit in favor of paying off my plumbing bills, I used to feel silently indignant at guys who would run the sink at full blast while shaving. Growing up in drought years I learned to turn the tap off until I needed to rinse the razor. Then one day it dawned on me that since I tend to take long showers (I like water, despite what it's done to my house -- see, we have no chance against "Nature"), I was in no position to direct indignation anywhere, since I was probably using gallons more water.
On my way to work I pay my quarter for the San Francisco Chronicle, and as I leave the BART station (I'd love to point out how virtuous I am for not owning a car, but between my poor depth perception and my tendency to get road rage even as a pedestrian, it just wouldn't work out -- and it really has affected where I live and work, in a way that most people wouldn't accept), I'm handed a free copy of the Examiner. One day last week, the Examiner had a big Earth Day insert. You can figure out the amount of paper, ink, power to run the presses, and so forth, behind that. But what caught my attention was that this annual section was stuck in the middle of the weekly Automobile section. What was that line from Fight Club, about arranging the deck chairs (or polishing the brass?) on the Titanic?
Years ago, I walked out of the skyscraper in which I was temping. It was one of those "DARE to keep kids off drugs" weeks. I forget what DARE stood for, since the program was mostly in the schools and would only occasionally make its presence known in the corporate world, usually through sponsorships. There was a woman, obviously a bit unclear on what exactly she was saying, wearing a huge "DRUG-FREE AND PROUD!" pin. And she was huddled in the entrance, poisoning herself and anyone passing by with the nasty stench of the cigarettes to which she obviously was hopelessly addicted. Sure, she was sold on the idea of smoking, but she was willing to buy, I'm sure without the thought that she was becoming hooked on a drug far worse than some of the banned ones she was so proud not to take. First do no harm, if you can even figure out in time where harm lies. . . . The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices / Make instruments to plague us. . . .