This is the 53rd year for the eco-celebration. What started as strictly a U.S. phenomenon tied to the consumer movement and anti-war protests of the early 1970s has grown into an international event held in 190 countries by over a billion people. The focus of this year’s event is Climate Change. Like most things born out of a protest movement, the focus of much of the Earth Day rhetoric is on the problem and not so much on the solution. The Earth Day Network says the day marks the importance of dedicating time, resources, and energy to solving the climate crisis.
On the first Earth Day in 1970, the focus was on big industry, particularly fossil fuel electric power plants. Thus, I find it ironic that this year electricity is being hailed as the solution to climate change, in the form of electric cars. Touted as being carbon neutral, motorists are being told that, by going electric, they are helping to save the planet. The Biden administration has jumped on the electric bandwagon and is telling auto makers to get busy turning out battery-powered vehicles.
The fallacy here is that these vehicles are anything but carbon neutral. First, they run on electricity, 60% of which is produced by fossil fuel. Second, the amount of materials needed to make the batteries is far more impactful to the environment than almost anything else produced by man. Most of the components are made from finite raw materials, which means this industry is not sustainable especially compared to the bio-fuel sector which has far less environmental impact and is both renewable and sustainable.
Earth Day also focuses too much on policy, supporting government restrictions on products and practices that are said to harm the environment. This is because it was founded by a politician. Earth Day is a concept that was first brought about by Gaylord Nelson, a politician and environmentalist who served as a senator and Wisconsin Governor. Nelson’s focus was urban, “If our cities don’t work, America won’t work.” Over the past 53 years, Earth Day has either ignored agriculture or stated that it was part of the problem.
In fact, one of the biggest climate crises that faces us today is rarely ever mentioned on Earth Day. Millions of acres of productive farmland disappear each year. Just think of how much farm ground has been covered by concrete during the past 53 years of Earth Day. Unless we start conserving farmland and keeping it in production, people will spend a lot of time in their electric cars driving around looking for something to eat.
Perhaps the mouthpieces for Earth Day should adopt a truly revolutionary and controversial message: individual ecological responsibility. Each of us makes environmental choices every day with what we buy, with what we eat, and with what we throw away — from the fuel we put in our cars to what we do with our trash, to how we farm our land.
Real environmental progress is not going to come from restrictions and regulations but from individuals making informed choices about how they impact the environment.
That’s how I see it.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Hoosier Ag Today, its employees, advertisers, or affiliated radio stations.