Two things brought to mind Earth Day today, one an article in Orion on red, black & GREEN, and the other an email. I think Earth Day, as it is practiced today, is dead. We need something new, something real.
I was one of the organizers, along with some older friends, of the first Earth Day in Las Vegas, April 1970. What did we do? We hung out on the grass and threw frisbees, and had long and deep conversations about how to change the world, and how ourselves. And, that being the time, smoked dope. It was really transformative for people, I think, because there had never really been group discussions before. We had a feeling we were all going in the same direction, if not the same path.
I continued to help organize, and go to, Earth Days for a while, and then eventually dropped out. Last year I stopped by briefly at the Sacramento Earth Day in Southside Park. And left soon after. Earth Day has become booths. Everyone is selling their version of the solution, whether agencies or organizations, and brochures multiply. Some of these agencies and organizations are really doing next to nothing, or in some cases some very bad things, but this is their greenwashing opportunity. And some organizations and agencies are doing good things. But the booth and the brochure are not the way we get where we need to go. That is a dead end, in an energetic and action sense.
So, what would a REAL Earth Day look like? Well, I’ll thrown in my two cents.
- Not: No booths, no tables, no chairs, no tents, no brochures, no business cards. Everyone who has a message to get across would get it across while working with other people (see below). I’m sure that most agencies and organizations would drop out, but that is OK, they weren’t doing much of use anyway. A few would stay. Their employees and volunteers would be part of it, along with everyone else.
- Real work: The day would be organized around a work project. Something that addresses community needs and concerns. Obviously a project that occurs in an underserved community (Sacramento has plenty!) would be best, but only if the project is initiated and organized by the community. It can be supported by organizations and agencies, but it needs to start and end with the community.
- Conversation: Some conversations will happen naturally as part of the work and food (see below), but more can be facilitated by having roundtable discussions on topics of concern to the community. These could be convened but not led. There are no experts here, just people who care. I see groups sitting around on the grass in a circle, that grow until too large to hear each other, and then naturally seed other circles. When a discussion isn’t speaking to a person, they get up and find one that does.
- Food: What we eat is not only a great impact on the earth, but is also the core of our social function. So we should eat together. That might be one use for the tables and chairs not used above, for people who cannot sit on the ground, but I envision most people sitting on the ground, and continuing informal conversations. How to pay for it? Ask people to give in proportion to their ability (To each according to his needs, from each according to his abilities). This is a gamble, of course, because food must be purchased and prepared ahead of time, but what better role for all those agencies and organizations to play than as a guarantee against a loss.
- Interactive: Music and dance should be a core part of it, probably following lunch. Performances should be interactive. Not someone up on stage entertaining the crowd, but the whole crowd entertaining itself, with the help of creative initiators. Keeping with the theme of the day, this is a time to get involved, to stretch beyond your normal boundaries, not a time to be an observer.
- Transportation: Ask people not to drive! Maybe even tell people not to drive. After food, our second greatest impact on the earth is how we get around. We have become far too complacent, thinking that something will save us from climate change, just some adjustments here and there, nothing too inconvenient. Well, it won’t! There may be things in life important enough to drive for, but I don’t think Earth Day is one of them. If people really want to come, they will get there, on foot, on bicycle, on public transit, in real carpools (not just another person, but a car packed with people). Which leads to the next point.
- Community: Stop doing regional events. Earth Day should happen in communities. If there isn’t one in your community, either help organize one, or stay home and do something useful in your neighborhood.