It’s Earth Day – Did You Notice?

423px-Kellyposter1970It’s a special day around the world today, April 22. Can you say why that is? If you are a Christian maybe you’ll say that it’s Good Friday.

True, but for all seven billion of us around the world, it’s Earth Day, a day intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s natural environment.

Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. It was focused on the U.S., but has since gone global with the support of the United Nations; it is now coordinated by the Earth Day Network.

Unfortunately, not too many people seem to care. Stephanie Pappas, a LiveScience Senior Writer, suggests that doesn’t matter in an article entitled “Why You Won’t Read This Earth Day Article (And Why That Doesn’t Matter).” Is she right?

Earth Day turns 41 this year, but in some ways, environmentalism seems to be stumbling. According to recent Gallup polls, 48 percent of Americans now believe that the dangers of climate change are exaggerated, up from 41 percent in 2009 and 31 percent in 1997. Meanwhile, environmental concerns rank eighth on Americans’ worry list, behind terrorism, illegal immigration and the size and power of the federal government.

Getting people to care about environmental threats — especially distant ones such as climate change — can be tough, environmental advocates say. But whether or not people care about the environment may not matter much at all.

“Many people do things that would be considered environmentally sound, even if they aren’t doing it for environmental reasons,” said Edward Maibach, a professor of communication at George Mason University in Virginia who has studied Americans’ opinions about climate change. “Several groups are concerned, one is not. But all of them place a high value on conserving energy.”

“It’s tapping into a broadly held value,” Maibach told LiveScience. “People just think it’s a good idea to save energy and to save money as a result of saving energy.”

Who cares about climate?

Maibach and his colleagues conducted a nationally representative survey of American adults in 2008 to understand how the public thinks about climate change.

They found that 18 percent of people are alarmed, convinced of the seriousness of global warming and taking steps to alter their behavior. Another 33 percent are concerned, but not taking action. Another 19 percent of people are cautious, meaning they believe climate change is a problem but don’t feel a sense of urgency about it. The disengaged (12 percent) and doubtful (11 percent), on the other hand, either don’t know much about climate change or don’t think it’s a big problem. And 7 percent of people are dismissive, actively campaigning against a national response to climate change.

But surprisingly, all of the groups conserved energy at the same rates, said Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale University Project on Climate Change, who was involved in the study with Maibach.

“The dismissive are conserving energy and saving energy as much as anyone else,” Leiserowitz told LiveScience…

[continues at LiveScience]

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  • Danzig777

    Every day is Earth Day (for me). Every day I talk to her. Every day I love her and I tend to her parasites and breathe in the exhalations from her lungs and I touch her and I talk to her. Every day I make choices to be the best daughter I can be. Every day I care.

    Mother Earth wept
    As they tore off her dress
    Heart broken, humiliated
    In a state of distress
    They ripped out her hair
    And they scratched at her skin
    Drained her of her fluids
    Then committed their sin
    They gouged out her eyes
    And cauterised her womb
    They sealed up her mouth
    And made her a tomb
    Now she lies still
    At the mercy of man
    I whisper in her ear,

    “that’s not the way that I am”

  • Danzig777

    Every day is Earth Day (for me). Every day I talk to her. Every day I love her and I tend to her parasites and breathe in the exhalations from her lungs and I touch her and I talk to her. Every day I make choices to be the best daughter I can be. Every day I care.

    Mother Earth wept
    As they tore off her dress
    Heart broken, humiliated
    In a state of distress
    They ripped out her hair
    And they scratched at her skin
    Drained her of her fluids
    Then committed their sin
    They gouged out her eyes
    And cauterised her womb
    They sealed up her mouth
    And made her a tomb
    Now she lies still
    At the mercy of man
    I whisper in her ear,

    “that’s not the way that I am”

  • Haystack

    When I think of Earth day, I’m reminded of energy saving light bulbs, lowering your thermostat, not flushing your toilet as often, etc… — outmoded ideas that never held any promise because they required huge numbers of people to invest a lot of effort into conscientiously saving small amounts of resources in daily use. These were largely token gestures that made people feel like they were doing something, but never amounted to much in practice. How much water did we end up saving my letting the yellow mellow?

    The real change needs to happen at the policy level, and it’s pretty clear that nothing substantive is going to get passed by the current congress. I’m sure that lack of interest in environmentalism is a big part of this, but at the same time, I have to think that some of the decline in Earth Day is due to an inability of activists to convince the public that they can actually do something meaningful.

  • Haystack

    When I think of Earth day, I’m reminded of energy saving light bulbs, lowering your thermostat, not flushing your toilet as often, etc… — outmoded ideas that never held any promise because they required huge numbers of people to invest a lot of effort into conscientiously saving small amounts of resources in daily use. These were largely token gestures that made people feel like they were doing something, but never amounted to much in practice. How much water did we end up saving my letting the yellow mellow?

    The real change needs to happen at the policy level, and it’s pretty clear that nothing substantive is going to get passed by the current congress. I’m sure that lack of interest in environmentalism is a big part of this, but at the same time, I have to think that some of the decline in Earth Day is due to an inability of activists to convince the public that they can actually do something meaningful.