April 22 was Earth Day. In the week leading up to this environmentalist tradition, the Student Activities Board planned an Earth Week that contained three events: succulent planting, rock painting and flower crown making. These events want to raise awareness for environmentalism and conservation, right? Because I felt like it missed the mark.
When considering how I can reduce my ecological footprint, buying silk flowers and pesticide-grown cacti does not make the top of my list. In an all too common theme, the SAB sacrificed effective social action in favor of charming aesthetics. They join the ranks of “environmental” events that decimate their venues, supported by twenty-somethings who believe buying a pair of shoes will improve the standing of people in developing nations, and Kermit the Frog telling us it is easy to be green — just buy a new car.
This pseudo-environmentalism serves the vanity of the practitioner at the cost of their cause because they are more invested in appearing ethical than effecting any actual change.
Sorry, Kermit — it is actually pretty hard to be green. Earth Day is an opportunity to remind ourselves of the ways we all could step a little lighter on — and take a little less from — this rock we share with 7 billion others, and all of our future descendants. Coddling our vanity and aesthetics will not reverse the damage done to Earth.
Painting animals on rocks does not stop poachers from hunting them, planting cacti does not stop Montisano from building a monopoly on agriculture at the expense of local farmers, and making flower crowns will not reverse climate change. Perhaps the SAB would have done better to consider other popular environmentalist and conservationist events, like litter clean-up brigades, guest speakers on climate change, commodity consumption reduction goals, or even an hour without power. At least these would encourage individuals to think of how they consume environmental resources.
Maybe I am biased, but I do not believe these three activities helped the planet at any discernible level. You could argue that they remind people of the very existence of plants and other living things, but I am sure at least some of the succulents planted on April 17 are already well on their way to dead as the SAB failed to even provide pots with drainage.
That is gardening 101.
At the end of it all, the students on campus are old enough and educated enough that they should see the shortcomings of aesthetically pleasing craft time in place of actual conservation efforts. And the Earth Week activities should never have seen the light of day.
Mary Fitzgerald is the web manager for the Tacoma Ledger, and a junior studying computer science. Most days she can be found on campus in the development labs or in the TLC. Mary aspires to use her degree to make technology accessible and sustainable.