What Killed Earth Day? Too Much Fuss And No Bother

By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Today isn't Earth Day anymore. Haven't you heard? Earth Day is dead. It collapsed yesterday after one of its many news conferences and was rushed by hybrid ambulance to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. (Where staff members were immediately fired for peeking at Earth Day's medical history.)

This happened not long after we simultaneously received an e-mail alerting us that "Access Hollywood" host Nancy O'Dell is throwing a celebrity "eco-aware Mother's Day party!" and another e-mail alerting us that the Finnish ambassador's wife has taken it upon herself to make buildings in Washington more green. (Her last job? "Director of sustainability" for Nokia, which makes us think of all those haunting photos of scavengers picking through piles of dead cellphones in Chinese landfills.)

Earth Day was 38 years old. What killed it? A long but admirable struggle with celebrity piety and corporate baloney, mainly.

But specifically? Too many "green" issues of too many magazines. Michael Pollan insisting that everyone garden, right now. Pop stars getting on their private jets to go speak on behalf of the polar ice caps. BP and ExxonMobil ads touting the greeniness inherent in the petroleum industry. There was so much eco-junk to buy, so as to replace your wasteful junk, that the National Retail Federation was soon going to have to create a whole new holiday shopping forecast for Earth Day and implore people to shop more during Earth Day season, when retailers are counting on them the most. ("Save up to 50 percent on green items at!") People griping about people griping about light bulbs. People griping about people griping about Al Gore.

Finally, Earth Day died the minute they canceled that Earth Day concert here on Sunday. Because of rain. Because of lightning.

That sort of wussiness won't save the planet. Earth Day died because, it turns out, saving the Earth is going to be very complicated. It is going to require attention spans, intelligence, sacrifice and lawyers and more than one day a year. To save the Earth, Earth Day had to go.

Earth Day is survived by its longtime companion, Mother Nature.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company