It’s Earth Day 2012, and we need to think bigger. Many of us will take part in this year’s events: mostly parades, picnics, and parties. But ask greenies why we’re motivated to buy recycled paper or bring our own bags, and you’ll hear a lot about not wanting to feel guilty. As we mark the 42nd Earth Day, let’s remember that there’s more to protecting the planet than feeling good about ourselves.
Most environmentalists today are excited about making lifestyle choices and limiting our individual footprints. “Between oil spills, climate chaos, and pollution,” we worry, “it feels like the planet may be going downhill fast. So I’m going to reduce my part in causing those things – eating locally, recycling, buying “greener” products – and you should too.”
These lifestyle choices are helpful, and they help us connect with and share our concern for a livable future planet. Ultimately, this is an important step. But it’s time to remember WHY we care. Our green movement can’t just be about feeling smug and acting greener-than-thou. It’s got to be about calling for changes to protect the things we care about.
Personally, climate change is something I think a lot about. I want my children to enjoy snowy winters – and a stable civilization. Anytime we talk about big planetary problems, their utter size and scope can seem daunting. But envisioning what we want for the future can also be a source of motivation. Bringing your own bag to the grocery store will not solve global warming. (It’s still worth doing!) Rather than give up, let’s get together and go beyond small acts. Forget being greener than your neighbor. It’s time we work together.
So keep bringing your reusable bags. Don’t stop recycling. And keep enjoying good local food. (Read up on Daily Tips at The Green Life!) But don’t be afraid to think big. If we want to reduce plastic bag waste, let’s work together as citizens, not just consumers. Guilty about paper being wasted? Recycle your heart out, but also call on junk-mailers to change their ways. Savor your local, organic tomatoes, and work with your community for better access to farmers markets for all.
This Earth Day, we challenge you: Think about what motivates you to go green, and dream of bigger solutions. Keep doing the small things – they do make a difference! – and pair them with something more.