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Apr. 21 2010 - 5:58 pm | 740 views | 1 recommendation | 17 comments

Not buying Earth Day

Remember the joke that “Army Intelligence” is an oxymoron like “jumbo shrimp” How about the oxymoron that is “environmentally friendly attack aircraft”?  That’s what the Navy is planning for this Earth Day when it will

test-fly its main attack aircraft, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, on a biofuel blend this Earth Day, part of an ambitious push by the Pentagon to increase U.S. security by using less fossil fuel.

According to a report at McClatchy, the Department of Defense is way ahead of the civilian population when it comes to being earth friendly.

The Army plans to have 4,000 electric vehicles in the next three years, one of the biggest electric fleets in the world.

The Air Force plans to provide 25 percent of the energy at its bases with renewable energy by 2025 and use biofuels blends for half its aviation fuel by 2016.

The Navy plans to launch a strike group by 2016 that runs entirely on non-fossil-fuel energy, including nuclear ships, combat ships that run on hybrid electric power systems using biofuels, and aircraft that fly only on biofuels.”

If a greened up military isn’t enough to inspire you to save the planet, how about Hollywood?  Timing the release of “Avatar”on DVD and Blu-ray to coincide with Earth Day could, according to the filmmakers, save the world.

The Earth Day release of Avatar on DVD and Blu-ray is no accident. Instead, it is a deliberate political and social act. By taking audiences back to Pandora, James Cameron wants to make a difference in the environmental movement, a primary inspiration for the movie in the first place.

‘I don’t think I’m coming out of the closet,’ the 55-year-old Cameron says in an interview about aligning Avatar with the Earth Day Network. ‘I think I was pretty up front about it. I think the themes in the movie are pretty damned overt.”

Okay, if you are so cynical that neither the US military nor the biggest blockbuster movie EVER  inspire you to go green, how about Wal-Mart’s Earth Day campaign.  ”Thinking about the future… with unbeatable prices” is Wal-Mart’s  slogan and their policy is “let’s make ethical environmental choices as difficult as possible for our customers.”  That’s why you can buy environmentally friendly cleaning products from Clorox, makers of dioxin-laden bleach!  Or those lovely lightbulbs that last forever but contain mercury so when they’re not properly disposed of, leak into the already-contaminated water supply.  Or how about tees of organic cotton= made by whom? And under what conditions?  At $7 a tee, I’m guessing the tees were probably not made by adults receiving a livable wage.

Over at Psychology Today, there is some interesting research showing what these examples of stupid Earth Day stunts tell us.  That we “go green” and celebrate Earth Day for status with our peers, not because we’re actually willing to sacrifice anything to save the environment.  In other words, we “go green to be seen.”

In the case of the military, they wish to be seen as “not dependent on foreign oil” as well as earth-friendly sorts whom we can trust.  In the case of “Avatar,” the filmakers wish to be seen as selling us a movie worth buying – more plastic, more energy, more of a carbon footprint, but hey, more profit too.  As for Walmart, a company famous for putting local businesses out of business and increasing the cost of transport while simultaneously decreasing the cost of labor so we can all buy more stuff we don’t need and increase our individual carbon footprints, well, they want to be seen as an eco-friendly company, one that is not out to destroy planet earth and your local community.


But we can’t just talk trash about big military, big entertainment, and big corporations.  We have to talk a bit of trash about ourselves.  No matter how many trees we plant  on Earth Day, when it comes to actually inconveniencing ourselves, even just a little, we tend to trash our eco-politics just as quickly as we’re trashing planet Earth.

Perhaps “going green to be seen” is not a bad thing per se.  If we award higher status to those who act in environmentally friendly ways, that’s better than awarding status to those with a huge McMansion and driving in a Hummer.

But perhaps status needs to be transformed from “consuming stuff for Earth Day” to measuring ourselves and each other on what we don’t consume.

I am going to start with myself and not buy anything for Earth Day.  Not an eco-friendly military, a movie with a message, not even an organic cotton shirt.  In fact, this year,  I’m not even going to buy Earth Day.


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  1. collapse expand

    I was really hopeful when I saw the title of the post…but, alas, it wasn’t to be.

    • collapse expand

      Aw c’mon Ethan- you know you love every post I have ever written. I am the reason you get out of bed each morning. Who else do you love to hate as much as me?

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        I still think he likes you.

        I live in Far White northwest Houston. Today on the radio, they were bashing Earth Day. A guy called in to complain about what he called “Earth Day run amok.” He explained that his kid’s teacher told the students to bring their lunch in a non-disposable container for Earth Day. The guy proceeded to bitch about how he had to unpack the Lunchable he always gives his kid, throw away its container, and put it all in Gladware he’d have to wash and clean later. He was really upset about all this.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    Noam Chomsky shook me to my toenails about ten years ago when he came out with a book entitled The New Military Humanism. As to going green, people have to find the joy in it or it’s destined to be about as effective a force for good as the Catholic Church. I love eating low on the food chain because it makes a banana taste like a banana split. I love riding my power-assist bike instead of a car for 100 miles a week because I get out in the air and it keeps me strong and healthy.

  3. collapse expand

    I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ‘em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like [sniffing,pondering]
    victory. – Kilgore

  4. collapse expand

    A book I read a long time ago, “Toxic Sludge is Good for You” by John Stauber and Sheldon Ramptom does an excellent job of covering how earth day was rather quickly coopted by business interests.
    And yes, I think the idea of “buying to save the earth” is pretty reprehensible too, for several reasons. The first is quite obvious– we cannot consume our way out of a climate crisis. But here’s the other thing– it seems that this inward looking view “I’m not going to pollute MY body” in recent years has become some sort of substitute for actual progressive actions.

  5. collapse expand

    If you are not going to buy anything, you should at least watch a free documentary and enjoy saving a ticket stub! http://www.snagfilms.com/films/sections/category/earth_day_2010/

  6. collapse expand

    Laurie, not everyone is at the same stage of green enlightenment. The fact that the military is even planning to use renewable energy is a small victory. Walmart? Not so much.

  7. collapse expand

    The concept of Earth Day is sound. The execution? Not so much. It reminds me of that song Tom Lehrer sang many years ago on “National Brotherhood Week.”

    As for Green-ness, we all have different ideas of what Green is. You’re judging from your perspective that I suspect is primarily ideological. I judge it from an Engineer’s perspective. From where I sit, an awful lot of ideas fall on the floor, including some very sacred cows held by those who call themselves Green. Wind power comes to mind…

    No, the point of an attack fighter that burns a “Green” fuel is that these things DO burn a lot of fuel just to train pilots. Fuel burned is fuel burned –regardless of what it is used for. As much as I suspect some would like to see it happen, I don’t think we’re going to stand down the US military just to go Green.

    So go ahead and sneer at it. I won’t bore you with the details of how technology trickles down to the commercial sector of aviation.

    So while you may not see much in these efforts, I’ll take whatever I can get. If Walmart makes an effort to try some greener technologies in some of their stores, so much the better. Someone has to be the first kid on the block to try this stuff. I’ve seen too many technologies fall on the floor because it was foist upon the public by wide eyed visionaries who had no idea of how Mains street USA does things.

    It’s easy to sneer at this as if it will never be enough. It’s a lot harder to make it happen on a large scale. I recommend you try it some time. The experience will be educational at the very least.

    And that’s what I thought of Tom Lehrer’s song too.

  8. collapse expand

    Tonight, Countdown (MSNBC) did a report on the military’s remarkable “green” efforts–we will benefit from them. Greatly.

    Just a brief reality check. Sorry to intrude. Back to scheduled blog post.

  9. collapse expand

    “Going green to be seen”, is indeed not bad. Awareness of what we discard or burn, whether because we lose money or status (however minute), is still awareness. Awareness is not enough of course, but it is a starting point for change. And consumption per se is not avoidable, as long as we move continuously as a species towards items lower on the food chain.

  10. collapse expand

    Great article. The sheer superficialiaty of the Earth Day stuff is almost comical. Apart from the fact that the biggest hypocrites love this stuff as it allows them to look down on others, we can forget about enviormentalism the rest of the year by indulging in this Earth Day superficiality.

    More than anything else the “science” behind Man Made Global Warming was exposed as huge fraud by crackpot scientists when Russian hackers leaked their files.

    Thanks for the post.

    • collapse expand

      Indeed. In fact, weather itself is a myth. Along with the layers-of-atmosphere stuff we learn in school.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        I am sorry, but is this rebuttle an admission or failure or just some attempt to impose morality on others in face of facts?

        The whole Man Made Global Warming concept it now completely and utterly in ruins after Russian Hackers released thousands of emails showing the so called top Climate “scientists” behind it all were frauds and liars. They ‘cooked the books’ literally and had the editor of the New Scientist Magazine fired because he committed the crime of requesting papers with better data to back up the warming claim. And it just went on and on and on…

        The Indian Railway Engineer who is the chief “Climate” scientist at the UN admitted that his only proof that the glaicers were melting was an article in a montaineering magazine from the 1990’s. This is just how silly the whole thing and unscientific the global warming thing is.

        For thoes who missed the whole Climate Gate saga. James Delingpole did a superb series of articles for the Daily Telegraph on just how shocking the fraud among the Climate scientists was. Well worth reading.

        http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/james … l-warming/

        Attempts to disguise the inconvenient truth of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP):

        ……Phil and I have recently submitted a paper using about a dozen NH records that fit this category, and many of which are available nearly 2K back–I think that trying to adopt a timeframe of 2K, rather than the usual 1K, addresses a good earlier point that Peck made w/ regard to the memo, that it would be nice to try to “contain” the putative “MWP”, even if we don’t yet have a hemispheric mean reconstruction available that far back….

        And, perhaps most reprehensibly, a long series of communications discussing how best to squeeze dissenting scientists out of the peer review process. How, in other words, to create a scientific climate in which anyone who disagrees with AGW can be written off as a crank, whose views do not have a scrap of authority.

        “This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the “peer-reviewed literature”. Obviously, they found a solution to that–take over a journal! So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering “Climate Research” as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board…What do others think?”

        “I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor.”“It results from this journal having a number of editors. The responsible one for this is a well-known skeptic in NZ. He has let a few papers through by Michaels and Gray in the past. I’ve had words with Hans von Storch about this, but got nowhere. Another thing to discuss in Nice !”



        In response to another comment. See in context »
  11. collapse expand

    Should be called something more like “environmental responsibility awareness, except for CO2 day”.
    ‘Earth day’ reeks of cheezyness…”The earth is fine; it’s going nowhere, we are” – George Carlin

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    About Me

    I'm an academic who does not believe in abstract knowledge. Like Marx, I think the point isn't just to describe the world, but to change it. Unlike Marx I don't have Engels sending me my monthly rent. So I have a day job teaching sociology at Middlebury College. In my real life, I'm a fighter (taekwondo) and a writer

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