Not buying Earth Day
2010-04-22 0:00

By Laurie Essig |

Remember the joke that “Army Intelligence” is an oxymoron like “jumbo shrimp” How about the oxymoron that is “environmentally friendly attack aircraft”? That’s what the Navy is planning for this Earth Day when it will
test-fly its main attack aircraft, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, on a biofuel blend this Earth Day, part of an ambitious push by the Pentagon to increase U.S. security by using less fossil fuel.

According to a report at McClatchy, the Department of Defense is way ahead of the civilian population when it comes to being earth friendly.

The Army plans to have 4,000 electric vehicles in the next three years, one of the biggest electric fleets in the world.

The Air Force plans to provide 25 percent of the energy at its bases with renewable energy by 2025 and use biofuels blends for half its aviation fuel by 2016.

The Navy plans to launch a strike group by 2016 that runs entirely on non-fossil-fuel energy, including nuclear ships, combat ships that run on hybrid electric power systems using biofuels, and aircraft that fly only on biofuels.”

If a greened up military isn’t enough to inspire you to save the planet, how about Hollywood? Timing the release of “Avatar”on DVD and Blu-ray to coincide with Earth Day could, according to the filmmakers, save the world.

The Earth Day release of Avatar on DVD and Blu-ray is no accident. Instead, it is a deliberate political and social act. By taking audiences back to Pandora, James Cameron wants to make a difference in the environmental movement, a primary inspiration for the movie in the first place.

‘I don’t think I’m coming out of the closet,’ the 55-year-old Cameron says in an interview about aligning Avatar with the Earth Day Network. ‘I think I was pretty up front about it. I think the themes in the movie are pretty damned overt.”

Okay, if you are so cynical that neither the US military nor the biggest blockbuster movie EVER inspire you to go green, how about Wal-Mart’s Earth Day campaign. ”Thinking about the future… with unbeatable prices” is Wal-Mart’s slogan and their policy is “let’s make ethical environmental choices as difficult as possible for our customers.” That’s why you can buy environmentally friendly cleaning products from Clorox, makers of dioxin-laden bleach! Or those lovely lightbulbs that last forever but contain mercury so when they’re not properly disposed of, leak into the already-contaminated water supply. Or how about tees of organic cotton= made by whom? And under what conditions? At $7 a tee, I’m guessing the tees were probably not made by adults receiving a livable wage.

Over at Psychology Today, there is some interesting research showing what these examples of stupid Earth Day stunts tell us. That we “go green” and celebrate Earth Day for status with our peers, not because we’re actually willing to sacrifice anything to save the environment. In other words, we “go green to be seen.”

In the case of the military, they wish to be seen as “not dependent on foreign oil” as well as earth-friendly sorts whom we can trust. In the case of “Avatar,” the filmakers wish to be seen as selling us a movie worth buying – more plastic, more energy, more of a carbon footprint, but hey, more profit too. As for Walmart, a company famous for putting local businesses out of business and increasing the cost of transport while simultaneously decreasing the cost of labor so we can all buy more stuff we don’t need and increase our individual carbon footprints, well, they want to be seen as an eco-friendly company, one that is not out to destroy planet earth and your local community.

But we can’t just talk trash about big military, big entertainment, and big corporations. We have to talk a bit of trash about ourselves. No matter how many trees we plant on Earth Day, when it comes to actually inconveniencing ourselves, even just a little, we tend to trash our eco-politics just as quickly as we’re trashing planet Earth.

Perhaps “going green to be seen” is not a bad thing per se. If we award higher status to those who act in environmentally friendly ways, that’s better than awarding status to those with a huge McMansion and driving in a Hummer.

But perhaps status needs to be transformed from “consuming stuff for Earth Day” to measuring ourselves and each other on what we don’t consume.

I am going to start with myself and not buy anything for Earth Day. Not an eco-friendly military, a movie with a message, not even an organic cotton shirt. In fact, this year, I’m not even going to buy Earth Day.

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