April 22, 2013

The earth doesn’t celebrate earth day. People do.

By Anthony L. Francois Senior Attorney

Civic holidays (and their lessor cousins, “awareness” and “appreciation” days) usually recognize the accomplishments and memory of a person.  Like President Lincoln or Dr. Martin Luther King.  In its forty-three year history, Earth Day has developed from what was originally an “awareness” day to a semi-official civic holiday (minus the day off).  You can even send an e-card for it nowadays.  But whether it is a public holiday, an “appreciation” day, or still just an “awareness” day, Earth Day is different from most other such events.

The earth is not a person: only persons can understand it and give it meaning.  Only people, and our laws, can assign rules for its use, or non-use.

But the general purpose of Earth Day is for its organizers to purport to “speak for the planet,” giving the impression that they are the only ones who have the planet’s back.  The planet would surely agree with them, if only it could talk.  As a result, the public more readily sees as villains those whom self-appointed advocates designate as earth’s enemies: energy developers (and, by implication, energy users), farmers and ranchers (and, by implication, those who eat food), homebuilders and developers (and, by implication, those who live in homes), manufacturers and distributers of consumer products (and, by implication, those who consume them).

Think about the list of enemies.  You are on it, even if environmental activists claim only to be going after grubby big shots.  The real complaint of most hardcore groups is that there are too many people, consuming too much, for the earth and its systems to bear.

But you and I are no more “enemies of the planet” than we are invaders from Mars.  Many of us who are habitually maligned as despoilers of earth’s bounty care deeply about our natural environment, and appreciate its beauty beyond words.  We see the wonder of creation all around us, and we know our place and our role relative to it.

There is a lot of room for reasonable difference of opinion about natural resource policies and laws, but a good place to start bridging those differences is with a simple question: is the earth for people, or are people an invasive species?

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