Like every Earth Day, this year we’re once again treated to the usual deluge of “green” news and companies running to claim that they are environmentally friendly.
For example, NBC’s nightly news ran a green version of their logo in the corner of their screen, giving the illusion that they are a “green” company (what does that even mean these days?). Of course, they do not mention that their parent company–General Electric–is a major weapons contractor and is heavily invested in the nuclear power industry. As I wrote yesterday, there were also three former Michigan governors who took the occasion to advocate for “clean” nuclear power. And we can turn on the television and see any number of corporations using “greenwashing“–unjustifiably adopting the claim that they are “environmentally friendly”–to cash in on the “green” trend.
Along with these things, we also see the omnipresent “50 simple things you can do to save the Earth” lists, as if saving the Earth from the myriad environmental crises will be “simple.” Unfortunately, the natural world has been degraded to the point where we are well beyond “simple” solutions. While recycling, using energy efficient light bulbs, and unplugging appliances are all good ideas, it is going to take major changes in the world’s government and economic systems to truly “save the Earth.”
This all reminds me of a debate in the mid-1990s over the release of one of the early “50 simple things” lists. In response to its release, author J. Robert Hunter published Simple Things Won’t Save the Earth that critiqued the idea (author Derrick Jensen recently published: As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Stay in Denial by saying that true environmental change will take immense sacrifice. Author Gar Smith published another critique titled “50 Difficult Things You Can Do To Save The Earth” that offered sacrifices that people could take. I think it’s worth reprinting the list below–even if it is a little out of date–because it offers an important anecdote to what you see on the television:
1. Bury your car.
2. Become a total vegetarian.
3. Grow your own vegetables.
4. Have your power lines disconnected.
5. Don’t have children.
6. Restrict the population of motor vehicles.
7. Don’t build cars.
8. Stop building roads.
9. Replace roads with homes, parks, and gardens.
10. Halt weapons production and exports.
11. Stop the sale, distribution, and export of cigarettes.
12. Send an amount of money to Brazil to provide urban jobs for impoverished workers now forced into the rain forests.
13. Blockade a lumber truck carrying old-growth trees.
14. Spend a month tree sitting.
15. Try to live, if you can, to within the world average income ($1,250 a year) for 1 month.
16. Cut up your credit cards.
17. Unplug your television.
18. Undertake a Conservation Sabbath: one day a week without consuming electricity or fuel.
19. Fast a day each week, send the money saved on food to help feed the hungry.
20. Adopt a homeless person.
21. Raise the minimum wage to a survival income.
22. Enact a maximum wage law.
23. Tie politicians’ salaries to the average working wage.
24. Replace majority rule with proportional representation.
25. Replace the Electoral College with direct democratic elections.
26. Abolish the CIA and the National Security Act of 1949.
27. Pass a nature amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
28. Oust presidential adviser John Sununu.
29. Plant one new tree every day.
30. Go to jail for something you believe in.
31. Don’t own pets.
32. Allow all beef-producing domestic cattle to become extinct.
33. Redirect the military budget to restoration work; convert weapons factories to peaceful research; retrain soldiers for ecological restoration.
34. Remove US Forest Service from under the Agriculture Department; place US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish & Wildlife Service under the EPA.
35. Consume only products produced within your bioregion.
36. Don’t eat anything that comes in a package.
37. Don’t buy anything that comes in a box.
38. Require operators & owners of nuclear plants to live within a mile of the site.
39. Mandate federal recycling and institute a refuse tax on solid waste.
40. Pipe polluted water back into the water supplies of the companies that do the polluting.
41. Don’t own anything that runs on batteries.
42. Hand over excess packaging to store manager on visits to the grocery.
43. Travel by bus, never by air.
44. Stop using toilet paper and Kleenex; use washable cloth.
45. Extend the life of your wardrobe by learning to make and mend your own clothes.
46. Give money to every single panhandler you meet.
47. Democratize your workplace; start a union or a collective.
48. Learn to farm.
49. Liberate a zoo.
50. Ask your boss if you can take a day off to work on healing the planet… with pay!