Celebrating Earth Day has the backfire button built into it

42 years ago, someone had the sense to observe the first Earth Day (April 22). This year it’ll be celebrated by 192 countries around the world! That’s about a billion people participating in it – making it the largest civic observance in the world.

But does it really make sense to observe just a single day out of the 365 days as a Earth Day? Logically, No! 

And that is why I think days like Earth Days have the potential to backfire. Why? Because they encourage naive individuals to take responsibility – as if they are the ones who can make the difference in their “own small ways”. This may be true to a very tiny extent – but it is nothing to what businesses can do to make huge difference.

Riding on Guilt

The thing is people become aware of the facts and then they feel guilty when they go back to their old ways. Making people feel guilty will only go so far – because eventually it is not in their hands – it is in the hands of governments and industry – who created the problem in the first place to solve their pollution issues and consumption habits that they have so long been promoting (also read Consumption Fetish)

But people do have the power to drive unsustainable businesses out of business – only if they knew who those businesses are. When fast-food companies start to hide behind their “healthy choice meals”, when sugared water companies hide behind 100% natural juices (fails my understanding, how can a juice with a certain shelf life be 100% natural!), when coal-powered plants start giving off hybrid cars to their employees, when auto companies start to bring out 10 new models in a year in the name of variety and when new electronic toys flood the market with “innovation” stamped on them – consumers will always have a Catch 22 situation in their hands.


My daughter’s school is celebrating “Earth Day” and she will be becoming either a tree or a windmill. On a visit to her school, I see the awareness among the elder kids about global warming and issues related to sustainability – Carbon emissions, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle are way higher than I learnt during my school days. Given, schools are doing their job to bring awareness among the younger generation so they are well aware of the problem we face – but will they be well-equiped to handle the challenges. The behaviour of the business world has seeped into the education system worldwide – of me-first and coming first attitude. The stress is still on tough competition for premium schools etc.  Unless this changes, no number of Earth Days will save the Earth.

The business world now at least has started talking about beyond profits – beyond capitalistic consumption – beyond the economic gains. But there is a big catch – what is sustainable with 6 billion people today will not be sustainable with 9 billion tomorrow. So, the challenge is to bring the people out of poverty through increased consumption and reduced carbon emissions – how do you that? That is the question of our times!

So…what are you doing?

Anyhow, what are you doing with your family to bring about that awarenes? I got a series of 5 small encylopedia like big picture books – Our Warming Planet, Polluted Air, Polluted Waters, Spreading Deserts, Threatened Habitats and Vanishing Forests for my daughter and for myself too and hope that we get it!

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