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Earth Day vs. Arbor Day

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Of all the questions which can come before this nation, there is none which compares in importance to the great central task of leaving this land an even better land for our descendants than it is for us, and training them into a better race to inhabit the land and pass it on. Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuation of the nation.
– Theodore Roosevelt, 1908

[ADBLOCKHERE]Today, many in the United States and around the world are observing Earth Day, a tradition that originated in 1969 as a pet project of Senator Gaylord Nelson and other early environmental activists who saw it as an opportunity to express concern over the state of the environment and, in particular, the threat which they felt human use of natural resources posed to Mother Earth. It was conceived as a day of protest and demonstration, an offshoot of the student activism of the 1960s. Nelson wrote:

If we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the student anti-war energy into the environmental cause, we could generate a demonstration that would force this issue onto the political agenda.

The first observance in the Spring of 1970 was enormously successful, claiming 20 million marchers worldwide. It helped raise public consciousness about environmental issues and added a new and positive issue to the repertoire of the activists of the period, one that could appeal to a much broader spectrum of the public than opposition to the war or promoting various socialist causes.

Earth Day became a national phenomenon, attracting activities and observances every year around the nation. It retained the character of a protest, largely promoted by the political left with a lot of hand-wringing, anti-corporatism, scaremongering, and a certain amount of luddism. In the last 37 years, it has remained strong on message and protest, but weak on positive solutions.

In at least one way this is unfortunate because Earth Day has largely supplanted the older and in many ways much more positive observance of Arbor Day, the celebration of nature which I grew up with. On Arbor Day, students around the nation would go out with their schoolmates and plant trees to enrich their local environment and green-up the nation. The first Arbor Day was in Nebraska in April of 1872, created by J. Sterling Morton who was distressed by the lack of trees in the plains state. Kids loved taking a day off from school to plant trees and the observance went nationwide by 1888 and continued for almost 100 years.

With Earth Day and Arbor Day falling in the same month, and Earth Day having a lot more political support, Arbor Day has largely fallen into obscurity. Their website has turned into a tree-marketing enterprise. Hardly anyone goes out planting anymore and I doubt most people reading this even realize that Arbor Day is next Friday. All the focus is on Earth Day. It’s just too confusing to have two special days honoring nature one week apart, and Earth Day has stolen the limelight.

It’s a sad trend because the difference between Earth Day and Arbor Day embodies the difference between environmentalism and conservationism. It’s the difference between just complaining about the environment and actually doing something to improve it.

No matter how many people go out marching with signs protesting Exxon, the Iraq War, CAFTA, and all the irrelevant issues the SWP and Moveon.org brings out to make every march on every issue look the same, what are they really accomplishing beyond more of the same old empty posturing? Oh wait; all the kids at my daughter’s school are wearing green for Earth Day. Boy, there’s an accomplishment.

I’d much rather see those kids leave their air-conditioned schools and venture out into nature with their class to plant trees. Wouldn’t it be nice to see the protestors put down their signs, put aside their agendas, pick up shovels and saplings, and hit the roadsides and parks of every city, improving the natural environment of the communities where they live? It may be a bit more work and a bit less self-indulgent, but it sure would be nice to see people outdoors actually doing something positive.

So screw Earth Day. Blow it off. Wait a week and go out and plant a tree and actually do something real for the environment on Arbor Day.

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About Dave Nalle

  • Lumpy

    I remember going out and planting trees once with my class at school many years ago but they stopped doing that years ago? Did they run out of trees or places to plant them? Maybe cities and other governments decided their parks already had too many trees.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Based on the naked strips of highway siding all over the country I bet they could plant there. Not to mention strip mall and office building parking lots. The managment of those places ought to welcome free trees.

    And it’s not necessarily that planting the trees matters to the environment so much as it’s important to foster a pro-active attitude among kids to encourage them to do something about the world around them rather than just protest pointlessly as seems increasingly to be the trend.

    Plus, they don’t have to plant trees. There are lots of other nice agricultural mini-projects they could do.

    Dave

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    I’m ignoring Earth Day today, btw. But next Friday I’m taking my kids out to plant a new ornamental pear tree in the front yard.

    Dave

  • TA Dodger

    “What does more for the Earth, planting a tree or carryig a sign?”

    I fail to see how they’re mutually exclusive.

  • Lumpy

    Have you ever tried digging a hole while holding a sign. Not easy. Maybe there’s a market for shovels with a blade on one end and a sign on the other.

  • MCH

    Nalle;

    Speaking of the environment, what do you do with the carcasses after killing all those stray dogs who get too close to the great fortified Nalle Compound?

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    I haven’t actually killed a stray dog here MCH. I’ve shot them with rock salt and birdshot, however. We have chickens and geese and they’re under enough of a threat from coyotes without adding stray dogs into the mix. Normally once they’re off the property we call the county animal control people. Perhaps you should pursue this issue with the people from Austin who decide to dump Fido in eastern Travis county when they move or he stops being a fluffy little puppy.

    Dave

  • Dave Nalle

    “What does more for the Earth, planting a tree or carryig a sign?”

    I fail to see how they’re mutually exclusive.

    Ah, but I didn’t say you had to choose, I just asked which one was more productive. In my opinion actually doing something positive is better than the endless negativity of the protest culture.

    Dave

  • http://www.theopinionmill.com Steven Hart

    Ladies and gentlemen, False Dichotomy Theater, with your host, Dave Nalle.

    On Arbor Day you plant a tree — the school here even gives kids little seedlings to plant. On Earth Day, you learn about recycling, the balance of nature, the great engines of weather and climate. You also learn about the enormous struggles involved in getting effective environmental regulations into place, and how easily it can be undone if people lose track of what’s important and let a bunch of crooks get control of Congress and the White House. It all feeds into the concept of stewardship of the land. Why, there are a couple of youth groups here that do regular river cleanups. What a bunch of negativity, huh?

    Arbor Day, Earth Day. Around here we have no trouble observing them both.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Steven, around here on Earth day the kids wear a green shirt and on Arbor day they do nothing at all. I suspect that’s more typical than what you describe, which sounds like an ideal situation, and which I suspect isn’t nearly as rosy as you paint it to be.

    The fact is hard to dispute that putting two ecologically oriented events within a week of each other is bad for both of them, and since EarthDay is the latecomer and has virtually anihilated Arbor Day, that’s where I lay the blame.

    Speaking of stewardship of the land, do you think kids should learn about responsible land use and minimally destructive and vital development of essential natural resources? Perhaps we could have them marching on Earth Day to open up ANWR. After all, without humans here to enjoy nature, what value does it have? That is who we’re stewarding it for, right? Future generations of humans….or would it be better if we exterminated the humans as if they were a parasite? Is that the school you belong to?

    Dave

  • Lumpy

    Any conservation activity is better than none at all, but I have to agree that the endless negativism has gotten tres tedious.

  • TA Dodger

    Ideally, IMO, the two should be combined into one day.

    Action like planing trees isn’t very helpful without a wider awareness of problem. Grousing about the problem isn’t very useful unless you’re willing to take action.

    The two stratagies aren’t just compatable they absolutely require one another for success.

    This article just reminds of the fight on the left I hate the most: “Who’s the most oppressed?” Way to miss the point.

    I have to agree that the endless negativism has gotten tres tedious.

    Just shoot the messanger.

  • http://www.theopinionmill.com Steven Hart

    Get a grip, Dave. Nobody’s talking about exterminating humans, so just take a few deep breaths and open up a couple of windows in your bunker.

    Some friends of mine just got back from a river cleanup in Leonia — nasty, messy work on a nasty, rainy day, done with great community spirit and all on Earth Day. That’s some real negativity for you!

    Last year we took our kids up the Hudson River with the riverkeeper and showed them the glories of the Hudson River Valley — glories we’d all be able to enjoy a lot more if GE hadn’t dumped a load of heavy metals into the river, but hey, I wouldn’t want to complain about it and make you think I want to exterminate all humans.

    You’re gonna plant a tree? Bully for you! Don’t justy get all black and blue patting yourself on the back, okay?

    If all the kids in your neck of the woods do is walk around in green shirts, all I can say is there must be some pretty shitty and unimaginative schools where you live. Where was that again? Texas? Ah … now I understand!

  • http://blogs.epicindia.com/leapinthedark Richard Marcus

    Dave you radical environmentalist you, how long have you been in that closet for. Of course you know that you’ll piss everbody off with an attitude where you suggest they actually go and do something.

    Yeah I know I’m supposed to a socailist weenie from Canada, but what the firetruck, I can’t help it if Dave is right. Earth Day is the biggest excuse not to do anything about the environment that’s come down the pipe in years. One of the first blogs I ever wrote was a rant against it as being nothing more than a sop to those who think going out and picking up garbage one day a year makes them environmentalists.

    That they are the same people who cut down trees because they interfere with the manicured look and they don’t see the irony or the hypocricy in that tells you something right there.

    Maybe there are some communities out there who utilize earth day to do something good, well bully for them. Does it make up for the neglect that all of us (I’m including me amongst that number cause I don’t do enough either) treat this planet with for the other 364 days?

    Why everybody seems to have to make this a personal attack on Dave is beyond me. Earth day deserves to be exposed for the sham that it is. If we truely cared about this planet we wouldn’t need to be cleaning the garbage up from the same places every year, year in year out would we.

    We’d support initiatives at the municipal, state/provincial/and federal levels to change the way things are done. We wouldn’t buy food that comes in six layers of packaging, we wouldn’t buy eight cylander “recreational vehicles” to drive to the mall and back.

    Maybe I’ve gone so far to the left I’m gone full circle, but remember folk the real meaning of conserv and the root is the same for itive and ationalist.

    I hope having me as an ally on this one doesn’t make you change your mind Dave. Now about this compound, do you have any catapolts or other siege machinery in place. If so may my wife can and get some tips on how to operate. She want’s to learn how to pick off passing cars with mega bass.

    cheers

    Richard Marcus

  • Steve

    Hey, guys, interesting conversation, here in Canada our former Conservative Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, just got won a “Greenest Prime Minister of Canada” award this week, despite the fact that the Liberals (who are supposed to be more to the left i.e. ‘greener’) have been in govt. for most of Canadian history. You are right Richard about ‘conserve’ and ‘conservative’.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Thanks to the Canadian faction for bringing in some good sense here.

    I share the perspective of Teddy Roosevelt, who was a true conservationist. He set aside more land and resources for protection than any other president, but he did it for a good, sensible reason – to preserve our natural resources for future use, not to just mindlessly exclude them from use forever.

    ne of the first blogs I ever wrote was a rant against it as being nothing more than a sop to those who think going out and picking up garbage one day a year makes them environmentalists.

    I wish they would even go out and pick up garbage ONE day a year. From what I’ve seen an awful lot of people would rather complain about no one doing anything to improve the environmental conditions around them than actually do anything themselves. It’s everyone’s problem, but an awful lot of people expect someone else – like the government – to solve it for them.

    After all, don’t we have probationers and people doing community service to pick up our roadside trash for us?

    I’ve always maintained that conservationism is by nature an issue which ought to belong to the political right. No one is more active in protecting and promoting nature and its responsible use than hunters and sports fishermen, and they’re traditionally conservative groups.

    Now about this compound, do you have any catapolts or other siege machinery in place. If so may my wife can and get some tips on how to operate. She want’s to learn how to pick off passing cars with mega bass.

    A noble goal, Richard. I’ve built two catapults in the past, one was a full-size Ballista and the other a scaled-down Trebuchet. That was some time ago, though. But if she needs a consultant I can provide some expertise. The Ballista could fire water balloons 300ft with great accuracy, but the bow design was basically flawed because it didn’t provide enough tension to fire heavier missiles. The Trebuchet was hell with golf balls, but scared me every time it fired. It would literally jump almost a foot in the air with every shot. If it were full size I think it would have been truly dangerous. If I were to build a new siege engine I think I’d go with an Onager for nailing coyotes en masse. The basic design is similar to the Trebuchet so it’s very easy to build, but much better as an anti-personnel weapon.

    Dave

  • Bliffle

    Dave: “I share the perspective of Teddy Roosevelt, who was a true conservationist. He set aside more land and resources for protection than any other president, but he did it for a good, sensible reason – to preserve our natural resources for future use, not to just mindlessly exclude them from use forever.”

    Wow! Boy am I ever glad you revealed this! All this time I thought those tricksters Pynchon and Roosevelt intended otherwise.

    Armed with this new knowledge we can now start to campaign to exclude visitors from places like Pinnacles National Monument, for example: http://www.nps.gov/pinn/

    We can convert those old caves, which are just used now for the stupid pleasure of kids with flashlights scrambling thru their dark recesses, to a Higher Economic use, such as aging that fine Kraft Corp. cheese that we all love. We can provide the caves free to Kraft as an incentive to the worthy american cheese industry to help it compete with cheap foreign cheese.

    And get rid of those damn condors! After all, they’re just buzzards when you really think about it. Who wants to save some old buzzards?

    Talking about National Monuments, how about that Statue Of Liberty? Did you know it’s hollow inside? All that valuable real estate going to waste. We could subdivide it into apartments and condos! Can you imagine the splendid view from the Nose Room thru Libertys nostril? Magnificent! The rooms could then be rented to visiting Oil Sheiks at high nightly rates to reduce the national debt! Or the president could provide rooms as a reward to campaign contributors, just like the Lincoln Bedroom in the Whitehouse.

    You’re a great man Dave for revealing this fact which has been hidden all these years from the American Public.

  • Bliffle

    Dave: “The Trebuchet was hell with golf balls, but scared me every time it fired. It would literally jump almost a foot in the air with every shot. If it were full size I think it would have been truly dangerous.”

    Now you see, if you watched PBS instead of that Janet Jackson Boob saturated commercial TV, you’d know how to solve that problem from the doc they had on trebuchets. I ran into some teenagers at the lumber yard who were gleefully building trebuchets from the PBS doc.

    Watch PBS! You’ll have withdrawal pains at first as the missing 20 minutes of commercials every hour starts to upset your living cycle, but after awhile you’ll get used to it, and will even come to prefer PBS since you don’t have to raise your impenetrable Gardol shield against the ad hucksters every few minutes.

  • Bliffle

    Richard: “…do you have any catapolts or other siege machinery in place. If so may my wife can and get some tips on how to operate. She want’s to learn how to pick off passing cars with mega bass.”

    I have invented and built the first practical antidote to the obnoxious mega bass problem. And it works. It’s a smallish blackbox with a button that I press after aiming it at The Offender, which emits a prerecorded high frequency audio signal (currently a few bars from the Sibelius Violin Concerto) in a narrow acoustic cone so that it is rather well confined to the offender, thus not antagonizing innocent bystanders.

    Megabass offenders are enthusiasts of some kind of pop music (they think that you should like it too, which is why they are giving you the free opportunity to enjoy this lovely booming bass they have discovered) and they always hate treble music, especially the Classical kind. Nothing so satisfying as injecting a little Classical Shrieking Violin directly into their ears. If you do it while sitting next to them at a redlight they will often turn the boom down. And if they don’t you still get the diabolical satisfaction of torturing them.

    The parts for this gadget are all available for a few dollars at Radio Shack (box, memory chip, audio amp, narrow cone tweeter, etc.). I have to build more since I have 4 cars.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Bliff, #17 shows that you just don’t get the concept of conservationism, or else you’re being deliberately obtuse in the service of pointless sarcasm.

    The question remains – what value does nature have with no human being here to use and enjoy it?

    Dave

  • TA Dodger

    The question remains – what value does nature have with no human being here to use and enjoy it?

    If you set aside it’s instrumental value, you are left with its intrinsic value. Those of us who are environmentalists believe that there is an intrinsic good in preserving the natural world.

    On the other hand, if you’re a pure utilitarian, and you want to create the greatest happiness for the greatest number, I’d say that there’s no obvious reason to ignore the happiness of other animals. It may be that some animals are more capable of experiencing happiness than others, but that doesn’t mean we are free from considering their experiences *at all* if we want to be ethical.

    At the same time, if you’re Christian, you believe that humans are to be stewards of the natural world, and have a responsability to care for the other creatures in God’s creation. I honestly don’t know the position of other religions on environmentalism / conservation.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Dodge, I’m a utilitarian and an atheist, and I don’t think that the ‘greatest number’ includes animals, except insofar as they are valuable to preserving the environment in which we live.

    I don’t think we ought to be exterminating animals or allowing species to die out gratuitously. Life and nature are an integrated system which needs to be preserved for our welfare and health.

    But at the same time, I firmly believe that the needs of humans and of human society need to be put first. A steward represents someone’s interests and I think the interested party here is mankind. That means preserving and protecting nature because it’s good for man to do so, not because of some mush headed, quasi-mystical service of gaia.

    Dave

  • Bliffle

    Well, first of all, I thought the point of “Conservatism” was to conserve the most valuable aspects of american life, like the basic ideas and constitution, etc., of the Founders, as well as the felicitous aspects of our environment. How that gold got transmuted into the base metal of uninhibited privilege of huge business and government enterprises is a mystery to me. Sounds more like sovietization than conservatism, IMO.

    The republicans surrendered the conservation position to the dems 40 years ago when they decided that corporate right to freely pollute streams, rivers, and air superceded traditional conservative ideas of conserving our felicitous environment. A serious error.

    “The question remains – what value does nature have with no human being here to use and enjoy it?”

    A striking question. Is man, then, the only measure of the value of anything in the firmament? If so, which among those men is privileged to decide? Whose enjoyment is primary?

  • TA Dodger

    Dave,

    I’m a utilitarian and an atheist, and I don’t think that the ‘greatest number’ includes animals

    But do you have an argument as to why it shouldn’t? They feel pain and unhappiness. What if a human derives pleasure from torturing an animal? Do you believe that torturing the animal is, in itself, immoral (that is: more than just “unhealthy”)?

    If you, as a utilitarian, think only humans should count the onus seems to be on you to prove why and not environmentalists to prove why not.

    I firmly believe that the needs of humans and of human society need to be put first.

    It’s not a question of who should count *more* but whether other forms of life count *at all* indepenent of their value to humans.

    Human life vs. endangerd tiger life, I’ll choose the human every time. Endanged animal life vs. the human “right” to drive a hummer and consume 4lbs of beef a week: I’ll choose the beast.

    And as for the religious point: I know you’re an atheist, I’m just explaining where other people’s belief in an intrinsic value to the natural world might come from.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Well, first of all, I thought the point of “Conservatism” was to conserve the most valuable aspects of american life, like the basic ideas and constitution, etc., of the Founders, as well as the felicitous aspects of our environment. How that gold got transmuted into the base metal of uninhibited privilege of huge business and government enterprises is a mystery to me. Sounds more like sovietization than conservatism, IMO.

    Not all conservatives are corporatists, Bliff. Capitalism and corporatism are not the same thing. Corporatism gone too far becomes an awful lot like a form of weird upside down socialism, you’re right on that.

    The republicans surrendered the conservation position to the dems 40 years ago when they decided that corporate right to freely pollute streams, rivers, and air superceded traditional conservative ideas of conserving our felicitous environment. A serious error.

    I don’t think they ever actually surrendered that position. Most of the sensible energy and environmental policies of the last 40 years have had serious Republican involvement, generally in very positive ways. Go back and check which administrations passed most of the major clean air and water acts. I’ll give you a hint – not one of them passed under Clinton, and Bush has passed the most significant improvements to environmental law since the 1970s. You can’t ignore the fact that enormous strides in conservation and improving the environment have been made in that 4 decade period when 28 out of the 40 years had Republican administrations.

    A striking question. Is man, then, the only measure of the value of anything in the firmament?

    Yes, because no one else is in a decision making position regarding anything.

    If so, which among those men is privileged to decide? Whose enjoyment is primary?

    Mine. Then the rest of you yahoos if you can figure out a way to make collective decisions.

    Dave

  • Scott Butki

    This is a great piece, Dave.
    We often disagree on issues but I’m with you on arbor day being a more valuable, meaningful day than Earth Day thogh I don’t see why they can’t both exist.

  • Lumpy

    Its arbor day right now and I sure haven’t seen anyone out plamting trees.

  • http://nightdragon.diaryland.com Mark Edward Manning

    Dave, good column, and it’s so true that Earth Day is an empty gesture. How many of these Earth Day observants attend concerts or other events, leaving tons of trash behind? Thanks for celebrating Earth Day – yeah, you people are really serious about saving the earth!

    It all comes down to few basic things: plant a tree, take public transportation (if you can), turn off electrical appliances when they’re not being used, conserve water – and, for Gaia’s sake, recycle! I’m amazed at the morons here in Britain who put six bags of trash on the curb every damn week yet ask, “I wonder when America’s going to ratify the Kyoto Treaty?”

  • billy

    how is earth day the same as arbor day. also how can i help the environment during earth day and arbor day

  • britanie

    well you see earth day is very important to our environment because people try to recycle or plant a tree. but the thing i don’t get is how after earth day everyone doesn’t care about our plant anymore!!

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