Gurdon: All the dreary didacticism sucks any possible fun out of Earth Day 

Can there be anything more tedious than Earth Day?

Year after year, four decades in a row, like the dripping of a leaky faucet, comes the tiresome scold-fest and guilt-o-rama that Americans are asked to join in every April 22.

On this day, we are meant to exude concern. We are urged to “go green” in some new way.

Not that there’s anything wrong with conservation. Naturally, we ought to appreciate the world’s beauty and its impressive environmental capacities, and of course we should avoid wanton despoliation. But like President Teddy Roosevelt before us, we ought to keep in mind that we can conserve natural resources whilst also exploiting them in an enjoyable manner.

The main problem with Earth Day is that there’s no fun in it. There’s no romance. And there’s absolutely no sense that by participating in its recycling sacraments and unplugging rituals that anything can come of it but a burgeoning sense of futility.

That feeling may be very useful to Earth Day proponents, feeding as it does an apparent need to intensify efforts to get more people to celebrate Earth Day and worry about the environment even more, but for the rest of us it just gives April 22 a depressing dullness.

Such was not the case with the rather dear holiday that Earth Day devoured. Arbor Day, inaugurated in Kansas in 1872, involved the lovely, human-scale practice of planting saplings.

Earth Day, by contrast, has always been vague and vast. Built on the protest culture of the 1960s and suffused with environmental alarmism, its joylessness has been seeping steadily into even the youngest American lives.

“Forty years after the first Earth Day, the world is in greater peril than ever,” warns the official Earth Day website. What can we do to ameliorate this dire circumstance? We can take bold action!

Contributors to the website have brave ideas — pay bills online, take cloth shopping bags with us to the supermarket and abstain from meat once a week to curb carbon emissions from the livestock industry!

There’s something especially pathetic about these earnest, Lilliputian efforts, and the degree to which we are hammering their importance into the heads of the young, after a week in which we have really seen some of what the Earth can do.

Today, while millions are engaged in yet more dreary didacticism about the perfidy of plastic bags and the uncharted terrors of climate change, the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull continues to fill the skies with impossible quantities of gases and ash and other particulates. There’s really nothing like an Icelandic volcano to put Earth Day into comical perspective.

Examiner columnist Meghan Cox Gurdon is a former foreign correspondent and a regular contributor to the books pages of The Wall Street Journal.

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