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Earth Day: Too little. Too late.

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
April 26, 2001


"How easy it is to go from bad to worse, when once we have started upon a downward course!" — Mark Twain

The bloom is off the rose, and like Christmas, Earth Day has become a chore for me. Whereas it hardly compares to the outright mendacity of the ultimate of Hallmark holidays, it is quickly becoming just another meaningless ritual allowing people to feel good about themselves for an hour or two.

As Chair of the San Diego Chapter of Zero Population Growth I did a shift at the ZPG booth during the Earth Fair in Balboa Park. Eye-opening does not begin to explain my experience listening to people justify overpopulation as a way maintaining a healthy economy. And this at the Earth Fair. Then there were the two anti-abortion zealots lurking about five feet away as if wondering how to shut us down. More on the goon squad later.

To be completely honest, at times during my brief stint handing out condoms and literature regarding the effects of human population on the rest of the planet, I completely understood how Ted Kaczynski could do what he did. Granted Ted's insane bombing spree was a wrong as it was pointless. His grasp of environmental reality was so strong he snapped from the tension. An anti-social streak 5 decades long also didn't help.

Now before anyone gets the wrong idea. Where Mr. Kaczynski liked to blow people up, my Earth Day experience only left me with a strong desire to explode. How is that for population control? I can see the headline now - "Frustrated environmentalist spontaneously combusts; Libertarians cheer". When my shift was over I couldn't get out of the park fast enough.

As I left the Earth Fair I noticed that there was an awful lot of exhibitors whose only real connection to the environmental movement was the mere fact that theirs was an Earth based business. Which, I might add, wasn't the case for everyone. The aforementioned anti-abortion zealots, with mural size photos of aborted fetuses, were passing out all sorts of whacked propaganda. My favorite being the one entitled - Underpopulation, Not Overpopulation, the Real Global Problem. Obviously they were from the planet Delusional Prime.

Did I mention that these self proclaimed Christians lied to the event organizers to secure a space at the event, and then refused to leave when asked? But, to give credit where credit is due, I commend the pro-lifers for their tenacity and chutzpah. It's a shame they are so utterly clueless.

Speaking of clueless, the day before Earth Day I had the dubious pleasure of participating in a demonstration at the border to protest against corporate rule, globalization, and U.S. involvement in the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The cluelessness on the part of us demonstrators rested solely in the belief that our efforts had any impact short of stopping traffic for twenty minutes. For the most part we where fashionably dressed revolutionaries milling about the park.

When we finally took to the streets we were herded like cattle by officers on horseback. The irony to end all ironies was that our march took us past an existing outlet mall and one in the process of being built. Riot cops were there as well, conveniently placed between demonstrators and the NIKE outlet. Cops where also positioned to protect the freeway from the threat of hippie occupation. Very surreal in a Laverne and Shirley sort of way.

At the border itself, Tijuana officers refused admittance to anyone carrying signs or banners. They then proceeded to search everyone, effectively breaking up the march. Once on the other side, the crowd  was herded on to buses to be taken to the beach for music and more preaching to the crowd. Completely underwhelmed, my friends and I opted for lunch and cerveza.

Perhaps it was the border event that soured me for Earth Day, whatever the case my weekends was one of sobering disappointment. As if I needed anything else to contribute to my already jaded perspective, spending the day with fair weather environmentalists only darkened my mood. If Marshall McLuhan was correct, and the medium is the message, the only message to be taken away from Earth Day 2001 is "Buy more T-shirts."

To underline the grim comedy of my futile environmental efforts, Monday morning I learned the of the Earth Day sewage spill that once again closed Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. One ocean. One toilet. How's that for a T-Shirt.

I am so looking forward to my wilderness break this summer. Hopefully I won't explode before then.

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