Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day: 39 Years Later

Imagine if our country took environmental matters seriously when Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970. Our country's growing affluence was a concern even back then, and we all know what happens next: unabashed and unbridled use of natural resources. The tide seems to be changing of course, with Joe Biden announcing today various 'green' uses of stimulus money. In fact, with tax incentives and rebates, green technologies are becoming a viable option for the everyday homeowner. It is also a technology, like the microchip, that could lead to incredible innovation and propel us into a new age. Hopefully when we celebrate Earth Day in another 39 years, we will see a vastly different notion about our planet's resources.
But a concern I have is the 'greenwashing' going on. The term has come to mean that certain companies and products are presenting themselves in an eco-friendly light, and yet they are not really reducing their toxic behaviors. Some of these behaviors are well intentioned; my son's elementary school sent home all sorts of single-sided xeroxed packets for the students to color to celebrate the day. Times that by four classes of kindergardeners, and all the kindergardeners across the country and I bet a lot of paper was generated thanks to the well-intentioned efforts of many. What will be even more concerning are the corporations that will undoubtedly capitalize on our government's forward thinking incentives by cutting corners and equivocating on the truth. It's already a shame that our government pays enormous sums of money to clean up toxic superfund sites-- wastelands once exploited by companies now too toxic for safe use. So I'd like to add an addendum and an asterisk onto today's events: as a country we should remember the mistakes of the past in order not to continue them into the future.

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