Yesterday, the 22nd April was Earth Day. Across my social feeds I saw beautiful pictures of our planet, but I chose not to celebrate it. I did not even mention it. 

Regardless of my passion for the environment, and advocation for climate action, I find “global days” to be problematic.

Created with the intention of getting people to care about the planet, I think in the end it falls flat.

Instead of inspiring a change in lifestyle to increase the chance of nature’s survival, days like Earth Day push us to compartmentalise our responsibility.

From World Tuna Day to World Chess Day there is a global day for almost anything, even toilets.

Global days are just that, days.

As a freelance consultant who has managed social media profiles for the past decade, I am more than familiar with the concept of “global days.” 

Social media, fuelled by our ever growing online economy, has seen us value these global days. They recognise products, services, species, places and even diseases. From World Tuna Day to World Chess Day there is a global day for almost anything, even toilets. 

This format of compartmentalising our responsibility holds no power for true reform. Although theses days provide a platform for the global community to voice an opinion, most of the time there is no direct action that occurs as a result.

Clicktivism is not activism.

Instead of pushing for political reform and asking our leaders to acknowledge human actions are increasing the rate at which our planet is warming, we post pictures on social media. I feel quite similar about Earth Day as I do about Earth hour.

On Earth Day, thousands or maybe even millions of people share memes and gifs, and beautiful imagery of our planet. However when the 23rd April comes around, it reverts back to a feed filled with fillers and face tuned photos.

For Earth hour, thousands or maybe even millions of people switch off the lights in their homes, and some businesses switch off the lights in their commercial properties, for one hour. Yet, when that hour is over, for the other 364 days and 23 hours, unnecessary residential lights are left on, and businesses continue their regular practice of keeping lights on all day and all night.

If you are a Christian, you do not simply celebrate Christmas, and then live the remaining 364 days against the rules of the bible.

It is easier to say, than to do

The ability of such days to gain online following and momentum amongst the global community can be partly attributed to the ease of joining in on such a moment.

There is no direct cost, unless you count the data used to post your Earth Day picture, or the price of candles you buy to light your home during Earth hour. It also takes very little time to participate in these online movements, removing the barriers that exist when trying to influence political or economic structure.

Perhaps I would feel differently if caring about the environment were treated almost as a religion. Not in regard to the oppressive structures or strict regimes, but in the way that they treat their “religious days.” Whilst religions have certain days dedicated to specific celebrations and acknowledgements, they do not forget about their religion after the day has passed.

For instance, if you are a Christian, you do not simply celebrate Christmas, and then live the remaining 364 days against the rules of the bible. You continue to practice your commitment to Christianity.

Before the industrial and capitalist revolutions, things were different. Individuals were in close ties with their community. the surrounding population and their natural environment.

New global ‘days’ vs Traditional days of celebration

I believe there is one main difference between modern global ‘days’, like International Asteroid Day and the traditional days of celebration that have been around for centuries, like St Davids Day.

New global ‘days’ are focused on awareness of issues affecting the global community. Traditional days, however, were regional or national events celebrated by a specific community of people who were directly influenced by the celebration.

Before the industrial and capitalist revolutions, things were different. Individuals were in close ties with their community. the surrounding population and their natural environment.

Labour and capital were connected. 

If your town was in drought, you had no water. Yet in our capitalist society, if your town is in drought you can simply buy water from the shop. If your farm was flooded, you had no food. However now, thanks to globalisation and capitalism, a farmer with a flooded farm can jump online, click a button and have food delivered to their doorstep from anywhere in the world.

This has created a disconnect from how the cycle of life operates, where food comes from and the impacts human actions are having on our finite resources. The days we used to celebrate were closely connected to our local environment, and actions were taken on such days that benefited the wider community.

In the modern era, we focus on global issues that affect a wide range of people. As we may not see the direct impact of these issues on our community or natural environment, it is more difficult to take action.

So, we take the easy route, that makes us feel like we are making a difference, and post a photo.

image of boxed water promotion for earth day

Cashing in on Earth Day

Like most millennials, I have spent most of my life unaware of the real impacts of my consumption. Looking no further than where I could make the most money, I ignored ‘boring’ scientific articles and knowledge. I consumed whatever product or service I thought would get me into the power circle of the elite, and even when I began to care about the planet, I bought products that made me feel better about my impact.

Yet the premise that consumption will solve our ecological crises is a hoax.

The more we buy, the more we consume, the richer the elite become and the further we push ourselves away from joining that power circle. Moreover, the more we consume to ‘help the environment’ the more we harm it.

The irony is that some Earth Day marketing activities are more harmful than helpful.

Global days like Earth Day allow the elite to continue to “live their best lives” and ‘care’ about the planet for one day per year. It also helps many businesses “cash in” on the trend. Instead of thinking about how they can make a difference by changing daily actions to create a long term sustainable impact, they post a nice photo or hold an event.

The irony is that some Earth Day marketing activities are more harmful than helpful. Sending collateral to increase awareness in plastic packaging, delivered in a way that pumps more CO2 into the atmosphere than would have been without these “conscious” products, are just some of the ways that Earth Day can be counterproductive.

Celebrate the Earth every day

Instead of celebrating the Earth one day each year, we should be changing daily actions slightly to ensure we celebrate it every day.

Be conscious of your daily water and electricity usage, and actively reduce your waste. Instead of simply buying replacement products when things break, try fixing or mending them. Reuse and recycle, compost and buy second hand when you can. Share your knowledge about how others can take action against the political injustice against our natural environment.

These are the actions we need to take every day, not just one day per year.

I don’t celebrate Earth Day. I celebrate the Earth every day, through making conscious decisions and reducing the detrimental impact my actions have on the planet.