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Earth Days: Thoughts on The Movement

February 10, 2011

I’m a documentary junkie, and prefer learning about real life and history to watching mindless drama on television. Don’t get me wrong, I could easily pass time watching sitcoms and reality shows, but I just don’t allow myself to spend my time that way.

Last week, I picked up a copy of Earth Days at my awesome local library. It’s a documentary that tells the history of the modern environmental movement.  The film is really great, and somehow manages to highlight all of the reasons the environmental movement is so important without getting too watered down with details. It’s certainly a must-see for anyone interested in all things “green.”

The movie really got me thinking about people. By now, it’s no secret that human progression and consumption has a negative impact on the planet. Obviously, there is some controversy as to how much damage has been done so far, and how dire the consequences will be when the proverbial “shit hits the fan,” but I think we can all agree that humans impact the environment.  So, why do we need to have an environmental movement at all? Why don’t people understand that we have to take care of the planet if we want to continue to live on it? Why are there so many people who just don’t seem to  care?

The popular answer is that people are motivated by greed and material wealth. Or that being a good steward of the planet takes too much work, and people are too selfish or lazy to do their part.  There is certainly a lot of truth to this – It does cost money to research and develop alternative energy sources. In many cases, limiting the amount of pollution a company creates also limits its productivity.  Some folks aren’t willing to take 45 minutes out of their Saturday morning to head to the local recycling center. It’s more convenient to throw everything out for the trash man to pick up. Out of sight, out of mind.  I believe there is more to the picture though, and possibly another angle that environmentalists can utilize to sway people to make positive changes.

Possibly a big part of the problem is that the typical American mentality seems to lack (or refuses to accept) the reciprocal notion that the Earth impacts humans too! As mentioned in the movie, human beings are as much organisms as the trees and the animals. If we are willing to admit that we can make the Earth sick, why not understand that it can do the same to us? An unhealthy environment cannot support that life that lives within it. At least, not in a healthy manner. Cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illnesses are all on the rise, and there is an environmental link to this. Our air quality is bad; our water is tainted with pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals; and our land has been ravaged and depleted of its nutrients.

Sure, we have definitely started creating awareness that our environment contributes to our illnesses, but I think we can work a lot harder to get the word out there. People need to know that our daily hygiene products and cleaning supplies are loaded with chemicals, that our food might not be safe, and that our children’s toys are laden with toxic chemicals that not only pose a health risk to them, they make the people sick who manufacture them. People deserve to know what is in the products they buy, and they need to be offered healthier, more eco-friendly options. This should be the focus of The Movement.

(Thanks for reading, and please feel free to comment. I’d love to hear what you think! What can we do to reach others? The ones who won’t voluntarily read this post.)

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