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.

  • I think there is still a need for Earth Day, perhaps for honest, sober assessments of how far we have come, and how far we need to go.

    Besides, there must be a few trees left unhugged.

  • Sara Biren

    Of course we still need Earth Day — as a reminder for those of us who still use paper towels on a daily basis even though the re-usable microfiber cloths are in the cabinet below the sink.

    Earth Day is a great opportunity to teach our children. It offers a chance for parents and teachers and others in the community to focus on what we can do — throughout the year — to make a difference. My children need to know why Mom puts their sandwiches and Cheddar Bunnies in a re-usable sack instead of a plastic bag. They need to know why we constantly remind them to turn off the light when they leave a room. And yes, we do talk about it often, but there’s nothing wrong with having a special day to wear a cool Save the Earth t-shirt, to celebrate, and to renew our commitment to our planet.

  • Chad

    text messaging costs money.

  • Jon

    Forget earth day…

    Pluto day all the way.

  • Angie

    MPR listeners are the choir, Bob. We absolutely need Earth Day, or something like it that really gets at what people should be doing, for everybody else.!

  • BJ

    @Ken Paulman – you must not have kids, the cable TV kids networks have been pushing it for about 3 weeks now. Specials on today with Earth Day themes.

  • So we do need Earth Day after all … as a marketing tool!

  • Lawrence

    Good question. Recycling programs have become the norm in Minnesota, which preserves the earth. On the other hand, there is still more work needed to keep water and the air clean. The problem with Earth Day is there really isn’t a gimmick that keeps people interested in doing it. Valentine Day is not an official holiday, but stores do everything they can to produce items that proclaim the holiday for consumers to buy, and thus Valentine’s Day exists. The same thing is true also of Halloween, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. Stores create products that keep us interested in maintaining these holidays, even though they are not traditional day off holidays. Earth Day, does the exact opposite, by telling us to buy sensible, waste free products. The most sensible waste free product however is nothing at all; hence people often do not think about it or remember it. Every holiday has to have some buzz around it to keep it going.

  • I think that people have gotten lazy with it. There isn’t as much awareness about it as when I was younger. Like many not for profits funding has been cut so drastically they don’t have the means to do what they once could. You in pubic radio know better than anyone. I don’t own a car and ride my bike or walk as much as I can. I do my best to buy locally grown food to support the economy and ecology in which I live. I recycle and have switched my light bulbs and done a lot of the “simple day to day things” like many of you. I really think it’s important for a day like Earth Day to educate people on the actual state of the planet as well as be a day that calls us to action. Plant a tree, organize a group of people and pick up the trash in your neighborhood. Organize a hazardous waste pick up each month on your block for batteries, used motor oil or paint remnants. There are so many things that can be done which require little effort or time. I think the day is important but it’s really just faded into the background. Maybe “do we still need Earth Day” is the wrong question. Maybe it should be “what can we do to make Earth Day better?”

  • Susan Colwell

    I concur with Jake Money. A different question needs to be asked, “What can we do to make Earth Day better?” Absolutely, Earth Day should stay! Why not make it a national honoring day where everyone has to think and act on some new way to help heal the Earth. We need to find ways for everyone to learn that it’s in their greatest self-interest to care and act towards healing the Earth. We ought not trivialize that Earth Day is EVERYDAY.

  • Ken Turner

    The threats to the global environment are greater than ever. I agree that “Do we still need Earth Day” is not the appropriate question. How can we make it more effective is a better question.

  • JBlilie


    We are destroying more species and more habitat now than ever before.

    In this country, we’ve made some progress on: pollution, Endangered Species, specific fuel consumption, conservation (a little), organic farming. We’ve grown complacent since things are OK here (not great; but we don’t see rivers on fire, dead songbirds in our yards.)

    We have a lot more work to do.

  • Earth Day 2009: our long global cow flatulence nightmare is over.


  • Dennis

    No we don’t. This is the biggest scam even the government had to get on it. First of all this was started by a man that killed his wife.