The Meaninglessness of Earth Day

Today is Earth Day, the one day of the year set aside to celebrate our planet. It’s a curious aspect of human psychology, assigning arbitrary rotations of the planet to construe meaning, focus awareness, and inspire action; as such, the tactic is marginally effective. Every New Year’s Eve, we resolve to do better. Each birthday passes with renewed hope of a full, gratifying life. Another Earth Day passes filled with encouragement to “make every day Earth Day.”

The sun rises, the sun sets, and the years pass.

A Hard Road to Recovery

We look for order and meaning in the regularities of life, the ground beneath our feet, the blue sky above, and the fresh air in our lungs. Soon, we take what appears regular and steadfast for granted; worse still, we take it for granted as our entitlement, as if beyond the consequences of our actions. Evidence to the contrary is ignored, denied, and belittled.

The lesson is harsh, but less so if we wait for another to learn it: if we are to find any valuable, enduring meaning in Earth Day, it will come in accepting the failure it represents. Our foundering, our negligence, does not derive of burning fossil fuels or upending the natural carbon cycle. It is not born out of our unbridled consumption, far beyond what is required — or even ideal — for our well-being. Nor is it the denuded landscapes, vanishing species, or pollution choking the air and water. These are but the consequences of failure.

We cannot hide from the elements of our broken human spirit that brought us to this place. To truly celebrate the vision and intent of Earth Day, we must first mourn what we’ve lost. In our grief, we find a place to revere what is left.

There is much to celebrate, but only if we embrace the meaning of Earth Day and accept the magnitude of our discordant relationship with ourselves, each other, and the world from which our awareness emanates.

If one day set aside can inch us toward this aim, then Happy Earth Day.

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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