Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Good, Earth Year Better, a Guest Blog by John Ausiello

Earth Day Good, Earth Year Better - A Guest Blog by, John Ausiello

On September 20th, 1969 Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin proposed a nation wide teach-in day regarding the environment while delivering a speech in Seattle. Approximately 7 months later, on April 22nd, 1970, 20 million Americans from across the nation joined in celebration of our common home: earth. And so was born “Earth Day” now a yearly event occurring every April 22nd. For those who are counting, this year marks the 40th anniversary of this important day. From 20 million Americans in 1970 to 1.5 billion worldwide participants expected this year, clearly the event has grown exponentially. Unfortunately so have the problems plaguing Mother Earth.

Cynics would argue that Earth Day has accomplished little. Each April, the numbers grow as the party gets bigger and yet CO2 emissions have continued to rise, glaciers have continued to retreat and our ability to cope with our problems has become more difficult. So would say the cynics. Unfortunately they are correct. Our problems are bigger, our solutions less effective and our confidence is weaning. And yet it is difficult to ignore 1.5 billion people. Approximately 25% of the world’s population will listen to music, eat good food, recycle plastic, perhaps even replace an incandescent bulb with an energy efficient one, all in the name of Mother Earth. All on one day, all for one cause. So no, Earth Day has not been a failure, quite the contrary it has been an unmitigated success. Clearly it has accomplished what it intended to do: raise awareness of our environmental problems.

The problem has been the other 364 days of the year. For one day of the year (or in some parts one week of the year) collectively we may act in an eco-responsible manner. And for many, such good will carries over for weeks, perhaps months as behaviors change but invariably most of us return to our “less than eco-friendly ways” by the time the hot dogs are on the grill for our 4th of July barbecue and our memory of the pledge we made on April 22nd has faded like a New Year’s Day resolution. Therein lies the problem, how do we channel the optimism raised on April 22nd into action on December, January or February 22nd?

Not too sure, but I do have one idea: carbon sharing. The idea is simple, we should “share” our daily activities to a much greater degree than we currently do. Environmentalists continue to preach the need to reduce our carbon footprint, espousing the virtues of restraint, calling on us to spend less, consume less, waist less. And of course they are correct. The problem is that the mortals amongst us (myself included) struggle with such restrictions. There is a reason most of us do spend too much, consume too much and waist too much and it is not solely because we are lazy, irresponsible or uncaring. It is difficult to do otherwise.

However, if we “carbon share” perhaps we can do a lot less (collectively) without having do much less individually. Picture the average suburban home or high-rise apartment across America on a hot summer night: we all dutifully tune in to our favorite TV shows, cook our favorite foods and run our energy-intensive AC units, each household maximizing its energy consumption. If instead we chose to join our neighbors (or friends) to watch the same show, cook the same food and stay cool with the same AC, we would significantly reduce our footprint at the sole expense of some personal down time. Realistic? Perhaps not in 2010 America given the intense pride we have for individuality. But there are countless other applications of “carbon sharing” from carpooling with neighbors to work or run errands to sharing common household goods with each other that are less radical but still effective.

This is the essence of “carbon sharing.” We simply do the same things we already do but in larger numbers effectively re-establishing a sense of community that is badly needed and in turn creating a more energy efficient lifestyle. It will take effort, perhaps more than we are ready to put forth but if we can begin to create such “communities” we will go a long way towards creating an Earth Year rather than celebrating an Earth Day.

This blog is part of Carbon Sharing, a guest blog series by John Ausiello

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