THE FAILURE OF EARTH DAY
Earth Day appeared on the political and social scene as an outgrowth of 1960s student activism - in response to an array of environmental catastrophes, and benefitting from energized young Americans' opposed to the Vietnam War. By 1970 an official day was chosen (April 22, although some celebrate on other dates) and in its first few years the observance created momentum which led to the creation of powerful environmental law in the United States, and the observance for a while served as a focal point for a robust environmental movement. Within 10-15 years, however, people began asking why Earth Day seemed to be an entertainment-oriented concert in the park instead of focused on real political solutions and/or hands-on actions. Then came commercialization and the non-profit money-scramble and a dearth of young people from either Gen-X or Gen-Y to bring new vision, life and political relevance to Earth Day. My effort with Earth Day Energy Fast attempted to address these faults, but it didn't gain traction, regretfully. Now Earth Day is sneered at by real environmentalists as a silly PR instrument and is flatly ignored by policy-makers - it is schoolkids in animal costumes, building Earth globes or doing a token beach cleanup. The final nail in the coffin of Earth Day was pounded in by one of Earth Day's founders, Denis Hayes, when he chose actor Leonardo DiCaprio to serve as "Chairman" for the 30th Anniversary event in 2000. The commingling of entertainment and politics had by then become viewed as normal and reached its zenith yet became the nadir for Earth Day.