Celebrating Earth Day in the Black Hills this week was a bit of a challenge. For one thing, we couldn’t see any actual earth, since it was covered by ten inches of fresh snow. Not that the snow was a bad thing. After last year’s hot, dry summer and this past mild, dry winter, the earth around here needs all the moisture it can get. We’ll take our April showers even if they have to be shoveled.
Snow shoveling may not be as traditional a way to observe Earth Day as, say, showing up at a rally in your Birkenstocks and “I Heart Mother Earth” tee shirt, but sometimes a woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do. Especially if she wants to be able to get out of the driveway.
Besides, there are other ways to celebrate. Earth Day, like any other holiday or special observance from Easter to the Fourth of July, has come to be marked in that quintessentially American way.
Apparently, in the spirit of enhancing our environment and protecting our planet, we’re supposed to drive to the mall and buy more stuff. Stuff to fill up our oversized houses. Stuff frequently made in Chinese factories that seem only moderately concerned about carbon emissions or pollution. Stuff that is transported halfway around the world in ships and trucks using fossil fuels.
But maybe I’m not being fair. The Earth Day sale ads in last weekend’s newspaper were full of things described as “organic,” “sustainable,” and “recycled.” These were Earth-friendly products, folks. Like the “pure and natural” disposable diapers with “fluff pulp from certified sustainably managed forests.” (Just try to say that fast while you’re changing a squirming baby.) I’m sure that fluff will sustain the diapers well through all the decades they will spend inside plastic bags at landfills.
Practically everything in the ads contained “naturally derived ingredients.” If it’s natural, of course, that has to mean it’s good for the environment and good for us. Just like some of nature’s finest substances: arsenic, mercury, and sulfuric acid.
Anything that wasn’t “natural” was “organic,” including yogurt and baby food. There was no mention of whether all the plastic in the single-serving containers was organic, though. The prepackaged macaroni and cheese wasn’t specifically labeled as organic, but it was “made with wheat using organic farming practices.” What the heck; that’s almost the same thing.
My favorite Earth-friendly item, however, was described as “a renewable resource.” The packaging was made from “up to 30% plant-based material.” That wasn’t the individual plastic containers, you understand; just the plastic wrap that held the 24-pack of containers together. The product, by the way, was a classic renewable substance. Water. Hey, it’s Earth Day! Let’s all go stock up on plastic bottles of water! What a great idea!
This deep and profound honoring of the true spirit of Earth Day reminds me of another naturally-derived product. A lot of that particular substance is produced by advertising copywriters. The rest of it comes from bulls.