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Lets rename Earth Day

By Joe Romm  

"Lets rename Earth Day"

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Affection for our planet is misdirected and unrequited. We need to focus on saving ourselves.

earth-day.jpgIn 2008, I wrote a piece for Salon about renaming ‘Earth’ Day. It was supposed to be mostly humorous. Or mostly serious. Anyway, the subject of renaming Earth Day seems more relevant than ever in light of our inaction on climate change, the over-running of Congress by climate zombies, and Bill McKibben’s book, Eaarth.

In a 2009 interview last year, our Nobel-prize winning Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, said:

I would say that from here on in, every day has to be Earth Day.

Well, duh! Heck, we have a whole day just for the trees “” and we haven’t finished them off “¦ yet. So if every day is Earth Day, than April 22 definitely needs a new name. So I’m updating the column, with yet another idea at the end, at least for climate science advocates:

I don’t worry about the earth. I’m pretty certain the earth will survive the worst we can do to it. I’m very certain the earth doesn’t worry about us. I’m not alone. People got more riled up when scientists removed Pluto from the list of planets than they do when scientists warn that our greenhouse gas emissions are poised to turn the earth into a barely habitable planet.

Arguably, concern over the earth is elitist, something people can afford to spend their time on when every other need is met. But elitism is out these days. We need a new way to make people care about the nasty things we’re doing with our cars and power plants. At the very least, we need a new name.

How about Nature Day or Environment Day? Personally, I am not an environmentalist. I don’t think I’m ever going to see the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I wouldn’t drill for oil there. But that’s not out of concern for the caribou but for my daughter and the planet’s next several billion people, who will need to see oil use cut sharply to avoid the worst of climate change.

I used to worry about the polar bear. But then some naturalists told me that once human-caused global warming has completely eliminated their feeding habitat “” the polar ice, probably by 2020, possibly sooner “” polar bears will just go about the business of coming inland and attacking humans and eating our food and maybe even us. That seems only fair, no?

I am a cat lover, but you can’t really worry about them. Cats are survivors. Remember the movie “Alien”? For better or worse, cats have hitched their future to humans, and while we seem poised to wipe out half the species on the planet, cats will do just fine.

Apparently there are some plankton that thrive on an acidic environment, so it doesn’t look like we’re going to wipe out all life in the ocean, just most of it. Sure, losing Pacific salmon is going to be a bummer, but I eat Pacific salmon several times a week, so I don’t see how I’m in a position to march on the nation’s capital to protest their extinction. I won’t eat farm-raised salmon, though, since my doctor says I get enough antibiotics from the tap water.

If thousands of inedible species can’t adapt to our monomaniacal quest to return every last bit of fossil carbon back into the atmosphere, why should we care? Other species will do just fine, like kudzu, cactus, cockroaches, rats, scorpions, the bark beetle, Anopheles mosquitoes and the malaria parasites they harbor. Who are we to pick favorites?

I didn’t hear any complaining after the dinosaurs and many other species were wiped out when an asteroid hit the earth and made room for mammals and, eventually, us. If God hadn’t wanted us to dominate all living creatures on the earth, he wouldn’t have sent that asteroid in the first place, and he wouldn’t have turned the dead plants and animals into fossil carbon that could power our Industrial Revolution, destroy the climate, and ultimately kill more plants and animals.

All of these phrases create the misleading perception that the cause so many of us are fighting for “” sharp cuts in greenhouse gases “” is based on the desire to preserve something inhuman or abstract or far away. But I have to say that all the environmentalists I know “” and I tend to hang out with the climate crowd “” care about stopping global warming because of its impact on humans, even if they aren’t so good at articulating that perspective. I’m with them.

The reason that many environmentalists fight to save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or the polar bears is not because they are sure that losing those things would cause the universe to become unhinged, but because they realize that humanity isn’t smart enough to know which things are linchpins for the entire ecosystem and which are not. What is the straw that breaks the camel’s back? The 100th species we wipe out? The 1,000th? For many, the safest and wisest thing to do is to try to avoid the risks entirely.

The problem is that with 6.5 billion people going to 9 billion, much of the environment is unsavable. But if we warm significantly more than 3.5°F from pre-industrial levels “” and especially if we warm more than 7°F, as would be all but inevitable if we keep on our current emissions path for much longer “” then the environment and climate that made modern human civilization possible will be ruined, probably for hundreds of years (see NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe). And that means misery for many if not most of the next 10 to 20 billion people to walk the planet.

So I think the world should be more into conserving the stuff that we can’t live without. In that regard I am a conservative person. Unfortunately, Conservative Day would, I think, draw the wrong crowds.

The problem with Earth Day is it asks us to save too much ground. We need to focus. The two parts of the planet worth fighting to preserve are the soils and the glaciers.

Two years ago, Science magazine published research that “predicted a permanent drought by 2050 throughout the Southwest” “” levels of soil aridity comparable to the 1930s Dust Bowl would stretch from Kansas and Oklahoma to California. The Hadley Center, the U.K.’s official center for climate change research, found that “areas affected by severe drought could see a five-fold increase from 8% to 40%.” On our current emissions path, most of the South and Southwest ultimately experience twice as much loss of soil moisture as was seen during the Dust Bowl (See NCAR analysis warns we risk multiple, devastating global droughts even on moderate emissions path).

Also, locked away in the frozen soil of the tundra or permafrost is more carbon than the atmosphere contains today (see Tundra, Part 1). On our current path, most of the top 10 feet of the permafrost will be lost this century “” so much for being “perma” “” and that amplifying carbon-cycle feedback will all but ensure that today’s worst-case scenarios for global warming become the best-case scenarios (see NSIDC bombshell: Thawing permafrost feedback will turn Arctic from carbon sink to source in the 2020s, releasing 100 billion tons of carbon by 2100). We must save the tundra. Perhaps it should be small “e” earth Day, which is to say, Soil Day. On the other hand, most of the public enthusiasm in the 1980s for saving the rain forests fizzled, and they are almost as important as the soil, so maybe not Soil Day.

As for glaciers, when they disappear, sea levels rise, perhaps as much as two inches a year by century’s end (see “Sea levels may rise 3 times faster than IPCC estimated, could hit 6 feet by 2100” and here). If we warm even 3°C from pre-industrial levels, we will return the planet to a time when sea levels were ultimately 100 feet higher (see Science: CO2 levels haven’t been this high for 15 million years, when it was 5° to 10°F warmer and seas were 75 to 120 feet higher “” “We have shown that this dramatic rise in sea level is associated with an increase in CO2 levels of about 100 ppm.”). The first five feet of sea level rise, which seems increasingly likely to occur this century on our current emissions path, would displace more than 100 million people. That would be the equivalent of 200 Katrinas. Since my brother lost his home in Katrina, I don’t consider this to be an abstract issue.

Equally important, the inland glaciers provide fresh water sources for more than a billion people. But on our current path, they will be gone by century’s end.

So where is everyone going to live? Hundreds of millions will flee the new deserts, but they can’t go to the coasts; indeed, hundreds of millions of other people will be moving inland. But many of the world’s great rivers will be drying up at the same time, forcing massive conflict among yet another group of hundreds of millions of people. The word rival, after all, comes from “people who share the same river.” Sure, desalination is possible, but that’s expensive and uses a lot of energy, which means we’ll need even more carbon-free power.

Perhaps Earth Day should be Water Day, since the worst global warming impacts are going to be about water “” too much in some places, too little in other places, too acidified in the oceans for most life. But even soil and water are themselves only important because they sustain life. We could do Pro-Life Day, but that term is already taken, and again it would probably draw the wrong crowd.

We could call it Homo sapiens Day. Technically, we are the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens. Isn’t it great being the only species that gets to name all the species, so we can call ourselves “wise” twice! But given how we have been destroying the planet’s livability, I think at the very least we should drop one of the sapiens. And, perhaps provisionally, we should put the other one in quotes, so we are Homo “sapiens,” at least until we see whether we are smart enough to save ourselves from self-destruction.

What the day “” indeed, the whole year “” should be about is not creating misery upon misery for our children and their children and their children, and on and on for generations (see “Is the global economy a Ponzi scheme?“). Ultimately, stopping climate change is not about preserving the earth or creation but about preserving ourselves. Yes, we can’t preserve ourselves if we don’t preserve a livable climate, and we can’t preserve a livable climate if we don’t preserve the earth. But the focus needs to stay on the health and well-being of billions of humans because, ultimately, humans are the ones who will experience the most prolonged suffering. And if enough people come to see it that way, we have a chance of avoiding the worst.

We have fiddled like Nero for far too long to save the whole earth or all of its species. Now we need a World War II scale effort just to cut our losses and save what matters most. So let’s call it Triage Day. And if worse comes to worst “” yes, if worse comes to worst “” at least future generations won’t have to change the name again.

As a penultimate thought, I suspect that many environmentalists and climate science advocates will have their own, private name: “I told you so” Day. Not as a universal as “Triage Day,” I admit, but it has a Cassandra-like catchiness, no?

Finally, perhaps we should call it “science day.”  We don’t have a day dedicated to celebrating science, and don’t we deserve one whole day free from the non-stop disinformation of the anti-science crowd?

As always, I’m open to better ideas”¦.

Eaarth day?

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56 Responses to Lets rename Earth Day

  1. Sunshine says:

    Although it may not have widespread appeal, to spin off of Chu’s (and others) statement that ‘every day should be Eaarth Day’… why not? Why not have a Rachel Carson Day, a David Suzuki Day, Bill McKibben Day, Stephen Schneider Day, Stewart Udall, etc … (and… to keep this list from being 360 more names long… you get the idea.)

    It might catch some attention in the MSM. If nothing else, it pays a bit of homage to those tireless individuals whose work and witness positively affects our lives and work every single day. Heck, we could do a calendar amongst ourselves… It could (should) be thousands strong, not just 365…

    (As an aside, most of the first-year teachers I work with in workshops have never heard of Rachel Carson. Geo. Santayana’s haunting words about those not remembering the past being doomed to repeat it comes to mind…)

    Who is your climate hero? Who would your nominate for “Earth-keeper’s Day”?

  2. @Sunshine: McKibben gets my vote, but there are less well-known heroines and heroes: Calvin B. DeWitt, Curt Meine, George Archibald, Jean Clausen… Look them up.

  3. Gord says:

    Today we are off-Grid. It allows us to check our equipment.

    So a new name eh? “Pull your head out of the sand day” … become more aware of the issues. Or “Memorial Day” … in memory of humanity … kinda tough and concedes the fight … Doh, that’s taken. Ok, well how about the WASTED Day. WASTED … (Watch AS The Earth Dies). Humorous but way too black; that was coined, in these parts, back when atomic war was likely. This is getting difficult balancing something catchy and yet pointed. How about “self-interest” day … too bland and of course it would be understood by some that they need to make more money.

    It’s a tough one, Joe.

  4. Sunshine says:

    Rick: Thanks; that’s my point. Without having those less well-known folks in recent media (instead of perhaps more obscure places), I fear, many will be lost. I’m thrilled to learn of new heroes/heroines.
    Perhaps ‘nominees’ can have a very short description accompanying them for the non-scientists who now follow Climate Progress discussions.

    Googling DeWitt yielded another neat/new resource for me – http://www.climate-change.tv

  5. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    I fully endorse your views. Saving the earth is the sacred duty of everybody.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  6. Sunshine says:

    Maybe Earth Day should be called 350 DAY. Hopefully many would be curious enough to inquire why 350 is the most important number in the world; it might also raise awareness that it is the laws of Science behind this, not a left wing, liberal agenda (which far too many already suspect).

    (Ten of my other earth-keeper heroes: Wade Davis, David Orr, Chief Oren Lyons, Wangari Maathai, Sylvia Earle, Janine Benyus, Paul Stamets, Wes Jackson, Lester Brown, and of course Al Gore, whose politics has unfortunately brought him a world of grief from the Grand Oil Party of the US, especially from Koch-lahoma.)

  7. Wit's End says:

    The two parts of the planet worth fighting to preserve are the soils and the glaciers.

    I would tend to think clean air should make the list too.

    Sunshine let’s not forget a JoeRomm Day. Thank you Joe for your indefatigable efforts.

    And in all modesty, it has already been proposed that Zawacki is a verb that means “I told you so!”

    http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2010/10/zawacki-is-verb-that-means-i-told-you.html

  8. dp says:

    “it comes so close to tax day, it’s tempting to try to rework it as a serious impact-inventory event for that same fiscal year” is what i’d say if i thought we had time to screw around with more low standards and gentle persuasion.

  9. Mark Haag says:

    Joe, this is the most disappointing column you have ever written. You have joined the “blame global warming on environmentalists” movement. Since when does protecting local environments get in the way of protecting the planet? Do you think people who learn to care about local environments are the ones voting for global warming denialists?

    [JR: Don't think that's what it says.]

    Or that anyone has said “I won’t work on the big picture because I am only concerned with the environment in my backyard”

    Yes, if we do not protect the planet from global warming, there will be little point in protecting local environments. But protected local environments can exist with higher population densities if we don’t concede the fight.

  10. paulina says:

    – Liberation Day –
    “Ours is a movement that recognizes the liberation of all people is the best way to define ‘the environment’.” – Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbPni0dpl8o at 2:00

    This works for me. I believe the liberation of all people will require the liberation of reason from unreason, the liberation of human speech bursting with truth, not nonsense, and the liberation of our real values of justice and solidarity from false and phony accounting.

    “[The polluters] think that we just wanna liberate dolphins and turtles. What they don’t know is that we understand that the fight against ‘the environment’ is the same people fighting against people.”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbPni0dpl8o at 2:45

  11. BlueRock says:

    > I don’t worry about the earth. I’m pretty certain the earth will survive the worst we can do to it. I’m very certain the earth doesn’t worry about us.

    My toes curl when I read this suspiciously familiar sentiment from George Carlin. Don’t get your environmental wisdom from a dead comedian. This ‘logic’ is trotted out to justify gluttonous consumption: “Don’t make no difference what I do, planet gonna be fine!”

    [JR: Do you read Climate Progress?]

    > Other species will do just fine, like kudzu, cactus, cockroaches, rats, scorpions, the bark beetle, Anopheles mosquitoes and the malaria parasites they harbor.

    For some reason, I don’t find that thought very consoling when compared with the ongoing mass species extinction that could eventually include the human race. The fact that new species will evolve over millions of years from cockroaches and rats is no compensation for losing the wealth we have now.

    [JR: Have you even read this entire semi-humorous essay.]

    I think these occasional “I’m not an environmentalist and you shouldn’t be either” pieces are weak and ill thought out. If people do not grasp the significance of wiping out species, it will remove a huge component of why global warming is such a dire threat – to all life on this planet.

    If you don’t care about little blue tree frogs, why care about polar bears? If you don’t care about polar bears, why care about tigers, rhinos, whales, dolphins, bumble bees or trees? In fact, why care about anything but yourself? As long as you’ve got enough for you why care about global warming? That’s going to hit other people somewhere else at some vague point in the future. F^ck ‘em.

    There are better things to write about than creating wedges between people who understand that we are not separate to the environment and that the quality of our life is hugely dependent on the biodiversity that this planet offers. Earth Day raises awareness and consciousness that we should all be fighting to protect it. Climate hawks should embrace it, not try to reappropriate it.

  12. Chris (from Vancouver) says:

    There is Earth Day, but what we need is Earth Week, Earth Month and Earth Year.

    Or better still, we should make a bigger deal out of Earth Overshoot Day, which each year comes earlier and earlier. It was August 21st last year, 2010. This is the date in which the total resources consumed by humanity will exceed the capacity for the Earth to generate those resources that year.

    2010 August 21
    2009 September 25
    2008 September 23
    2007 October 26
    2006 October 20
    2005 November 1

  13. Lewis C says:

    Joe – Triage Day may be apposite – but it just ain’t an option in a complacent US culture, as you doubtless well know.

    A new name could be of value if it can cut through the manipulated tribalism of politics to focus on what really matters to ordinary families – who are, increasingly, experiencing terrifyingly destructive weather events, for which the deniers have no explanation but the increasingly lame “It’s a fluke.”

    Shifting the focus onto the trends of intensifying extreme weather impacts, and onto their projected future outcomes under the present international brinkmanship of inaction, is at the core of raising irresistable opposition to the status quo.

    The title I’d suggest is thus “Childrens’ Future Day”.

    Regards,

    Lewis

  14. Daniel J. Andrews says:

    Dodo Day? A reminder of what is going to happen to many species, maybe even our own?

    And in another thirty years we can probably shorten it to D-Day. Given our failure to learn from history (or even learn history in our schools) not many are likely to equate it to some long ago battle.

  15. Mike Roddy says:

    Nice Earth Day essay, Joe.

    Like you, I endlessly worry about the best ways to communicate the truths you show so clearly on this blog. Ideally, Climate Progress would be required reading, but as you know not nearly enough Americans know what is actually going on in our atmosphere, and many are oblivious.

    How can the American public be reached? Even young people who get it seem to be mostly those who were fortunate enough to have received a good education. Most are adrift in Fox and other channels that pass for television journalism. Given the failures of our newspapers and TV channels, my notion is to start a new media company, but maybe finding the right person to invest the billions of dollars required is not a realistic goal.

    Any ideas?

  16. Joan Savage says:

    My son has joked that perhaps we have the answer to Fermi’s Paradox.

    I had to ask him what he meant.
    Basically, given the number of galaxies, stars and planets, there should be other signs of life in the universe. So why don’t we find it?

    Yet, if earth is typical of other populated planets, maybe the “intelligent life” all toast their homes through exploiting stored energy.

    With a sample size of just one planet, data are limited.

  17. Judith says:

    Calendar is great. So this is the first day of Earth Year. Might as well go all the way off the grid and use Arguelles calendar based in the 28 day +- of the natural cycles of the moon instead of Pope Gregories version. Puts it separate from the machine driven calendar. And since thy already call us nuts, why not biosphere day. (the unity of the whole living matter of the biosphere day is the sum of its living organisms) Actually I vote Oxygen day since I have to drag a tube of it around due to too much pollution in my life. (no I didn’t smoke)
    Every day of earth year could have a hero And a special creature – like Plankton – And a special word – like Co – good to breath out by humans, lousy to breath out by millions of cars, trucks, factories….. They shouldn’t get a vote on my biosphere.
    Since Arguelles calendar starts in July I have plenty of time to fill in a year of days to celebrate Earth the biosphere, not Eaarth the Dump.

  18. Wit's End says:

    I understand the humor in this post but I also feel sympathetic to Blue Rock who took it seriously – Poe’s law strikes again, this time in the frame of the false tension between climate change (CO2) scientists and activists, and environmentalists concerned about species extinction and pollution.

    It’s unfortunate that there is not more cooperation between the two camps – never mind the peak oil crowd who often seem oblivious to climate change and pollution as existential threats.

    Here’s a new study that highlights how interconnected the issues are:

    http://thecomingcrisis.blogspot.com/2011/04/ozone-hole-has-dried-australia.html

  19. Peter Sergienko says:

    How about “Life Day.” In many Christian traditions there is an All Saints day or Day of the Dead where the dead are remembered and honored. How about a day of remembrance for all living things? It can and should cover respect for all life, from plankton to trees to penguins, to humans to Gaia. Also, because those of us in the developed world are or can easily become so disconnected from nature, I do think we need to deliberately reconnect with the natural world (what’s left of it). One day is not enough, but given our numbers and our technology, human survival requires an understanding of ecosystems and our place within them.

  20. Sunshine says:

    O/T for this thread, but perhaps of interest to global posters:

    350.org is seeking translators for Bill McKibben’s PowerShift 2011 inspiring speech last week into many world languages. For more information, access:

    http://www.350.org/en/about/blogs/help-translate-bills-us-power-shift-speech

  21. Leif says:

    I am waiting for the day we declare the “We All Win War.” The day the American people finally realize that our future has but two options. We either win by embracing ecologically sustainable life styles in mass, with complete enthusiasm and participation or it is Toast-vill for this evolutionary thread. The day that “Capitalism” is transformed into “Eco-capitalism.” Where Wall Street is structured to provide cash flow for the rapid mitigation of our past environmental abuse and the ongoing construction of the sustainable foundation for the future of our children, natures children and the functioning ecosystems that we all depend on. Where corporations build quality goods designed to last a lifetime or more, structured in an economic system that all humanity can share. (Not making billionaires out of millionaires.) The Day that the Military fully realize that Green Energy is National Security. The day when “War” means National and International collaborative effort to save our collective asses not blow each other to smithereens. The day when over a half a trillions dollars of our yearly taxes that are allocated to killing is focused instead to living. ( A third of the worlds $1.5 trillion defense allocations!) The day our youth are trained to plant and nurture, not kill and destroy.

    The Awakening Economy… The WAWW… The “WAR” it will be fun to fight and real nice to win.

  22. Sunshine says:

    Expo Day (or Exponential Growth) day

    A curious interactive video by Dr David Suzuki at:

    http://interactive.nfb.ca/#/testtube

  23. David Smith says:

    Living Earth Triage Day….It’s a bit awkward but it presents an active purpose, triage to identify most critical concerns, a focus, the living aspect of the planet and a point in time, one day a year. It is now clear that we humans can cause change on a global scale. This is a new thing. Even post AGW it would be advisable to keep our public eye looking out for other threats of balance in our life support system.

  24. Tom Betz says:

    Let’s keep the new name simple and all-inclusive.

    Earthling Day — Covers all forms of life native to and resident on the planet.

    After all, these days, we’re all endangered species.

  25. Todd Tanner says:

    Joe,

    I read this site every day, and I agree with most of what you write. I’m also extremely appreciative of all the hard work you’ve done on climate change over the years. That’s said, your sub-heading – “Affection for our planet is misdirected and unrequited. We need to focus on saving ourselves.” – is both wrong and misguided.

    [JR: We disagree, but I think it may be mostly about messaging, which is my main point.]

    The reason we have a climate problem is because we view ourselves as distinct and separate from the natural world. That’s a fantasy, and one we can ill-afford right now. When people are aware enough to notice that our entire planet is interconnected and interdependent, they invariably choose to live in more benign and sustainable ways. But when a culture goes astray and teaches that we’re separate from nature – that we’re not part of, or reliant on, the world around us – we do things that threaten our very existence.

    Climate change is as much a symptom of our disconnect from the natural world as it is a stand-alone problem. Unless we begin to address the underlying cultural malaise that makes it acceptable to foul the planet in exchange for comfort, convenience and short term economic gain, we’re not going to come out the other side of this particular tunnel. I think it’s important we begin to recognize this truth and act accordingly.

    TT

  26. paulm says:

    Screw Us All day – Just to reminder us what we are all doing to ourselves, the biosphere and our future.

  27. Richard Brenne says:

    I propose that this 26-second video of a Norwegian Olympic cross-country skier encountering a polar bear and immediately changing direction become the official video of Anthro-Earth, because we need to see the danger and immediately stop and move as fast as possible in the other direction away from greed, selfishness, stupidity and our resulting self-destruction:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbbmQ_peeCA

  28. Richard Brenne says:

    Not that it much matters as our mascot video, but the video (currently in moderation at #27 being apparently viewed by various surprisingly thin-skinned polar bears) is a work of art, not reality. Norway has polar bears, but only over 1500 miles away on Spitsbergen Island. They occasionally walk the ice, ice floe-hop and swim the Barents Sea to the northern Norwegian mainland 1000 miles away, but the skier was filmed at the famous Holmenkollen outside Oslo, where I’ve made the requisite skiers pilgrimage including to the top of the ski jump in the opening shot, where there is a wonderful ski museum.

    The world’s other great ski museum is at the top of the Hahnenkamm downhill race course in Kitzbuehel, Austria. During WWII the Norwegian resistance to the Nazis was among the bravest and most effective of all, the famous “Heroes of Telemark” skiing in to blow up the German Heavy Water Plant (a key step in building an atomic bomb), then skiing away without losing a man.

    I met a Norwegian resistance fighter who told me the Norwegian Nordic ski set-ups with their free heals could escape the occupying army’s Austrian mountain division fighters more Alpine Touring set-ups, and my title for the story was “Free Your Heal, Free Your Mind, Free Your Country.”

    The Norwegian (skiing for at least 5000 years according to cave paintings and archeological evidence of early skis, including my all-wood Bonna 2000s in the basement, at least according to my daughter) and Austrian (skiing for around 1/40th of that time, imported by the pollinating British) skiing rivalry still continues. The Norwegians hadn’t really cared about Alpine ski racing for decades since Stein Erickson when they were awarded the 1994 Winter Olympics and within years they had two of the world’s best Alpine skiers, Kjetl Ande-Aamodt (still the winningest Alpine ski racer in Olympic and World Championship medals, and World Cup points) and Lasse Kjus. Their Norwegian National Team jackets were also the coolest ever, saying “Norge: The Attacking Vikings.” Take that, mainland.

    My Norwegian grandmother told us she skied to school in Bergen Norway in the late 1800s, but their climate has changed so much that even if everything else was same, there is more rain than snow falling there today, so that would be far less common or practical.

    Notice in the video how immediately the skier turns into a hockey stop, then propels himself back down the hill. Watch his right ski and the instant it comes to a complete stop it is the platform off which he thrusts in the other direction.

    I taught my daughter to Nordic ski like a Norwegian, starting at two. She used to cross-country ski race to wins while modifying the Bangles’ song “Walk Like an Egyptian” to sing “Ski Like a Norwegian.”

    And by the way, our biggest Anthro-Earth Day hero Bill McKibben can ski like this guy (more the skier than the bear) and has cross-country ski raced the famed Birkebeiner Nordic Ski Race in Norway. His classic technique is especially sublime, but given these circumstances his skate technique would be comparably inspired. My own technique would be similarly impressive if photo-shopped like the bear.

  29. Anastasia O Rourke says:

    Green Day (d’oh!)

  30. Richard Brenne says:

    Never missing a chance to brag about my daughter, her Norwegian-style upbringing also allowed her to Alpine ski race like an Austrian, long track speed skate like a Dutch, short track speed skate like a South Korean, run like a Kenyan, climb mountains like a Nepali and play hockey like a Canadian (these are surprisingly closely-related) and she did and does in one form or another, now working as a ski coach with her largest motivation to get kids out exploring next to the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area at young ages having fun.

    A Cornell study found that kids that get to play unsupervised in nature before the age of 11 develop an affinity for nature (and thus can more easily feel a concern for the environment) that is more difficult to develop any other way.

    Knowing this and with a supportive wife, we were able to expose Sarah to nature almost daily from soon after birth, including trekking 38 days around Annapurna and more remote places in Nepal when we lived there when she was four, camping and hiking in the Alps and around Europe and Russia when we lived there when she was five, exploring glaciers on three continents by the time she was seven and climbing and skiing off the summits of multiple big, glaciated Cascade volcanoes beginning when she was nine.

    We also recognized the cultural love each nation has for each of the sports we participated in, and how that often meant relating to nature in unique and meaningful ways.

    Back home in Colorado she skied so much next to the Wilderness Area each of the previous six years that by the time she was eight we could let her ski with her slightly older girlfriends all day (their goal was just to put sandwiches in their pockets and never come in from the ski area’s opening to its closing) on their own.

    Sarah used to Nordic ski from their practice to our Alpine ski practices to help me coach younger kids beginning when she was 13, then she led younger kids into the near-wilderness (all double-black diamonds including steep trees and out of sight or sound of anything but wilderness for a couple of miles) as a ski coach herself at 16.

    Her skill-set was so large from her background that she could decide to become an ice-hockey referee at 14 and out-skate the 35 men ranging from 18 into their thirties also attending the clinic, despite not having been in hockey skates for three years.

    Also she could enter a 10-hour endure of non-stop skiing 20 different extreme double-black diamonds at Arapahoe Basin at 16 and dust 20-something guys who taunted her about being a girl (and on stiff slalom race skis, but making high-speed GS turns down steep mogul runs).

    All of this has given her quite a bit of confidence that she’s applied to her academics and activism, and her learning from one sport and applying it to another is like synthesizing academic disciplines, which is most needed to understand all the human impacts that comprise Anthro-Earth.

    I don’t know what this has to do with Anthro-Earth Day exactly, I guess I’m just excited to be seeing her in a week when she’s done with her first year of college. . .

  31. Erica says:

    I know this is about as un-PC as it gets, but personally I care about climate change because I care about natural beauty. (Yes – I SAID THE B-WORD!!) I won’t get into the complex debates as to whether other species have value independent of human beings, but I do know that being in wild places nourishes the spirit. And I do not think it is “elitist” to want to preserve the glorious, stunning diversity of plants, animals and landscapes we are lucky enough to share the planet with. This is the birthright of every human, not just wealthy ones.

    So I nominate “Stop Extinction Day” – ours and theirs.

  32. Monica says:

    Happy Earth Day – Behold the Plastiki! David de Rothschild sails from San Francisco to Sydney in boat made of plastic bottles: http://f4a.tv/eUqAMC

  33. Sunshine says:

    Creation Day

    Blue Marble Day – (tagline: …and she’s tired of getting the flippin’ finger)

    - – -

    Also – a new effort premieres 4/23/11 on the Green Channel – http://www.hiphoprev.com/ Check it out.

  34. Vic says:

    Nothing quite hits home the awful reality of climate change (to me at least) as seeing footage of all these freakish weather events taking place around the world. With this in mind, I propose,

    Extreme Weather Day.

    A yearly round-up of the most extreme weather events from the preceeding 12 months. The media outlets would be on board as they’re already keenly aware that dramatic depictions of death and destruction sells newspapers and keeps eyes glued to the screen. The raw material available can only be described as voluminous.

    Forget earth energy imbalances, solar minimums and holocene maximums, they just don’t sell. We need to “sex up” and “dumb down” the message in order to reach those audiences still in the dark.

  35. Ted D. says:

    The planet is just fine. America is one of the cleanest countries in the world. Yes the cities are dirty places filled with progressive people but most of those ignorant city dwellers don’t know that massive amounts of tax money is spent on crap to save the environment that does absolutely nothing to save the environment. Progressives feel that if the government is spending money to save the planet it’s all good.
    The reality is, the government is taking money away from people to remove their power and increase theirs. It’s working. There are logical things everyone and every country should do to keep things green, however governments and progressives main goal is to remove as much money from the ones that make it and use that money for what the progressive feel is more worthy. Please notice I use the word “feel”.
    All the crap that 5 years ago Gore said would happen in 5 years did NOT come true. He is now a billionare and it’s your money he has. These are not my feelings these are facts.

    Ted D

  36. Ziyu says:

    Let’s call it Ecosalvation Day.

  37. dp says:

    @ richard brenne

    i want 10% for having to read that.

  38. Robert says:

    “Personally, I am not an environmentalist.”

    Why are you running a climate change site then? Climate change is the ultimate environmental issue to end all environmental issues.

    [JR: It is the ultimate human issue.]

  39. Richard Brenne says:

    ok

  40. Sunshine says:

    It appears the word environmentalist has as many meanings/connotations as much as the words religious and spiritual. Take ten people, get eleven meanings…

    Dr Romm: What a delightful photo in the Time article; a precious child and tender moment with Dad

  41. Sunshine says:

    Or… we could co-opt Groundhog Day.

    Why? Because it seems to take US a bloody long time to learn valuable lessons.

    - – -

    Also, a fine interview with Dr David Suzuki at:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jF7eylt08iU&NR=1&feature=fvwp

  42. Ziyu says:

    @Ted D, how exactly are you defining “clean”? And when you say one of the cleanest countries in the world, you do realize that you’re comparing the US to about 200 countries, the majority of which are third world countries right? So yes, the US would probably make it into the top 10%, i.e. the developed countries. That doesn’t mean the US is clean. The standard needs to be relative to developed countries. Among those, the US isn’t a very high ranker. Its rules on boilers and other toxic emissions are 10 years late and some states have somewhat lax compliance standards. Plus, other countries like Sweden are doing a full court press for renewables. The US is still subsidizing oil.

  43. joy hughes says:

    Climate day

    Or…

    Solar Day

  44. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Thanks Ted D #36, for a pithy exposition of what the sane fraction of humanity is up against. My vote would be for ‘Sufficiency Day’, because living within our means is noble and moral, because greed is the primary cause of our predicament and because, despite what Jack Benny said, we come into this world with nothing and, despite all our frantic efforts to pile up loot, we leave it with nothing as well. We leave everything to our children, and it’s best not to gift them the wretched mess of a dying planet.

  45. Hopeful says:

    Permit me to guess the main point of this essay.

    Efforts to modulate industrial growth arise out of a desire for longterm survival, not from an abstract ideology. These efforts, therefore, should not be perceived as part of a metaphysical struggle for true morality on a transcendent scale. Instead this struggle is so basic that there is a place at the discussion table for everyone, regardless political, religious or cultural identity.

    Many attempts to derail efforts to address climate issues have made the intentions of climate hawks appear complicated and confusing. In fact, the intricate nature of our everyday language does not prepare us for the natural confusion caused by powerful external forces. Perhaps what Joe Romm has implicitly asked us to do, is to accept that we do not control our world, and that even the most complicated language must begin with a more basic purpose. It seems he has seen how difficult it is for people to reconcile something radically different with our intricate everyday language (which generally assumes a preexisting world view). However, no one wants to accept a world view that renders us humble enough to put aside our complicated language and rethink our role in the world.

    Everyone wants the problem of climate change to adapt to our understanding of our world. Conservatives want to set limits with climate change, while liberals want to invite it to the party. (Yes, I also recognize that their follies are not equal, as liberals have been more concerned about climate change and more prepared to act on the issue.) However, to deal with climate change we all must admit that we are wrong, and get back to something more basic. Wrong is not the end. Failure to adapt could be the end. But, it is very difficult for us to begin this process. Our recent success makes this transition seem particularly senseless. There are opportunities here for us to show real strength. But, we must show a fundamental humility first. Humility does not mean we scrap the past, it just means we search tirelessly for something that works above something that reaffirms our prior notions. It means a taut adroitness and readiness to reignite something basic.

  46. Sunshine says:

    Mulga @ 47 – Spot on. “Pithy exposition of what the sane fraction of humanity is up against” – is the same reason I think “The Three Vomiteers” (Beck, Hannity and Limbaugh) actually do US a service by exposing the thought processes (or lack thereof) of the ultra conservative right wingers. Otherwise, they appear on the street as lucid.

    When it comes to renewable energy and environmental concerns, they remind me of teenage drivers who refuse to check the auto’s dipstick oil level despite repeated warnings from the parents. As long as the car moves, no worries… It’s a foregone conclusion that the engine will lock down and fail… leaving the extensive repair expense to someone else.

  47. Wit's End says:

    shhh…I tend to think JR is a closet environmentalist. Coming out would threaten his physicist creds.

  48. OregonStream says:

    While Earth Day may be more encompassing of the interconnected systems we rely on, I too think “Biosphere Day” would be reasonable. At first I thought “World Biosphere Day”, but maybe that’s too much. I’ve come across “the planet has been here for billions of years, we puny humans aren’t going to change that” type of line often enough. But this isn’t about the planet, it’s about the holocene biosphere that has fostered human civilization as we know it, from the biodiverse oceans and forests to the intensive agriculture that feeds billions under a relatively stable climate.

  49. Ed Hummel says:

    Joan Savage #16, I think your son has really hit on something there concerning Fermi’s Paradox! As far as a new name, how about Survival Day? And Gail #51, I think you’re right about Joe.

  50. Wit's End says:

    Ha, here he is, caught in an environmental documentary!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYo9jPcY2OI&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

    JR, why don’t you put this up so people can contribute!

  51. Sunshine says:

    Thanks, Wit’s End, for posting this. How come we haven’t heard of “A Fierce Green Fire” yet; guess it is brand new?

  52. manysummits says:

    Great article – real time, right to the minute.

    James Kunstler’s “The Long Emergency” comes to mind, for me, a dedicated ‘Limits to Growth”/’Planetary Boundaries’ man, still the single best characterization of our collective ‘state of the world’.

    A lot of talk is about being very rational, shall we say, but I rather like Einstein’s admonition:

    “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

    I used to blog intensively on the BBC, but gave that up. Reading Joe’s article today makes me want to write a little more just now:

    There are many valuable and insightful books on our collective history, such as those mentioned in Joe’s blog, and I would include Tainter’s “Collapse of Complex Societies”, and Ronald Wright’s “A Short History of Progress” and “What is America?”.

    But of them all, I return to Arnold Toynbee’s “A Study of History”, with a sound bite summing up what he had found:

    “Crystallization of a new order of civilization into an uncreative minority of powers that be leads to deterioration and ultimate collapse, despite the efforts of creative saviors…

    Superhuman individuals, operating at times in their mystic planes, return to action and propel mankind forward.”

    I do not look forward to the ensuing fight, but I see that it is inevitable. The shape and trajectory of the future is not really the subject of Cormac McArthy’s “The Road”, or James Kunstler’s “World Made by Hnad” – it is the human spirit.

    As we move into this new world we have brought down upon ourselves, perhaps a controversial and martial thought from John Steinbeck’s “The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights” is not inappropriate, if only to spark debate:

    “And then Arthur learned, as all leaders are astonished to learn, that peace, not war, is the destroyer of men.”

    Calgary, Alberta, Canada