Earth Day is upon us, and that means it’s time for celebration and reflection, as well as a lot of hard work. Activists in the vast, diverse confederacy that is the modern environmental movement are mobilizing campaigns, hosting vegetarian potlucks, planning neighborhood cleanups and meeting the public.
Not surprisingly, not everyone is entirely thrilled by all the green hoopla and hubbub. One environmental reporter told a group of colleagues, “I’m boycotting any mention of Earth Day. It seems to have become nothing more than a tool for shameless environmental huckstering.” Another journalist told her colleagues, “You all have my sympathy this week. Because I am sure that you, too, are getting called by every PR [public relations] person who ever learned how to use the phone. It’s Earth Day time, and they all want to sell a story.” With an increasing array of green groups competing for the attention spans of an increasingly hectic public, it’s understandable that some people could feel overwhelmed. If you are suffering from Earth Day overload, here’s a tip: choose one or two ways to celebrate our amazing planet this year, and pour some heart and soul into those. Apathy is the enemy of change, and you get out of a holiday what you put in.
Another way to look at the deluge of e-mails, TV commercials, festivals and campaigns tied in to Earth Day (what’s next, Happy Meal toys?) is that it signifies an exceedingly diverse, thriving environmental movement. Perhaps nowhere is this more clear than in a casual glance at your local newsstand. The venerable mainstream powerhouses Vanity Fair, Elle and Time (in the case of a special supplement) all boast beautiful eco-themed covers, and insiders say Wired will soon follow with an issue on rising green technology. Vanity Fair‘s special green cover features Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Al Gore—no surprises there—as well as George Clooney and Julia Roberts. The man who was once Batman is well known for his progressive values. But Julia Roberts? And on the Elle cover, Evangeline Lilly? Although both women are talented, likable and beautiful, their presence on green-issue covers caused quite a few smirks and guffaws among some activists and media types I know, who pointed to a dozen others with more green cred who deserved the attention.
However, after cracking the spines on both hefty issues, I was pleased to learn that both women have actually been working to earn their place in the greenlight. Julia Roberts drives a Prius, reduces waste, buys natural products and is building a solar-powered house. Evangeline Lilly is a recycling maven and thriftmeister. The Vanity Fair issue features inspiring, photographic profiles of green leaders, a hard-hitting piece on the fallout from West Virginia coal mining, and a look at the climate change debate by veteran environmental journalist Mark Hertsgaard that should prove sobering to the average reader of the celebrity-drenched magazine.