Do we still need Earth Day?

An interesting thing happened on Morning Edition today. When host Cathy Wurzer asked listeners to send us text messages on how they were observing Earth Day (that’s today — I know — I had forgotten about it too), we got almost no response. One person said they were “keeping it non-fiction,” whatever that means.

Later, when the question was tweaked to “what have you done in the last year to help the environment?”, responses started trickling in. Some people reported they had given up driving and started riding their bikes; others talked about switching to compact fluorescent bulbs; one person said they’d stopped eating meat, fish and dairy: “better for the earth for my health and for the animals.”

Indeed, practices like recycling, composting and alternative transportation — things that were not so terribly long ago the domain of radical hippies — are now commonplace. It’s not as though we’ve developed a perfectly sustainable society, but environmental issues are now frequently at the forefront of our collective consciousness.

Has Earth Day done its job? Do we even need it anymore?

Update: For an Earth Day bonus, take American Public Media’s Consumer Consequences to find out how many earths it would take to sustain your lifestyle.