Earth Day 2014

It’s Earth Day again – International Mother Earth Day, if you prefer – a day to generally encourage keen people to get outside and plant trees, pick up other people’s litter and participate in other relatively small, yet important, tasks that so greatly improve our communities and make us feel we’re making a modest difference at some level. More than a billion people take part, apparently, and I’m looking forward to finding out if any of them and the events they have organised receive much, if any, press coverage in between the usual gloomy stories about food banks and job cuts. We shall see.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know there was an ‘Earth Day Anthem’, set to Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’:

Now we must resolve to protect her
Show her our love throughout all time
With our gentle hand and touch
We make our home a newborn world

Sure, it’s a bit corny, but it fits the ‘Give Earth a Hand’ theme, from Greenpeace a couple of years ago, which I still like.

When the idea for an Earth Day came about in the Sixties, to promote conservation and increase awareness of the environmental damage we cause through our very selfish way of life, I wonder how many advocates envisaged an electric solar-powered bus, like Adelaide’s Tindo. In its first year alone, it saved over 70,000 kilograms of carbon emissions and 14,000 litres of diesel. California’s San Joaquin Valley now has a fleet of all-electric school buses, expected to save over $10,000 a year in fuel and maintenance costs. Isn’t that brilliant?

I wonder how far down the line, in 1970 when the first Earth Day took place, those concerned for our future imagined a major change in the way we build houses, changing our rooftops to better insulate or to cool our homes and offices, to collect rainfall and promote biodiversity (white roofs in Los Angeles, green roofs in Malmö, for example). It’s more than twenty years since the first passive houses, featuring wooden frames and thick walls, designed to keep cold air out and human-generated heat in, were built in Germany. These brand new apartments – in Brooklyn, New York – are built to Passivhaus requirements, and they’re wonderful, but why does everything have to take such a long time to catch on? How much time we have wasted.

We need more of the same and we need it now.

Fellow dreamers, take a look at some of the amazing, yet hardly affordable, eco-houses being built around the world.

As always, I’d genuinely love to hear your suggestions for minimising your carbon footprint, because I’m always looking to minimise my own. We can all give Mother Earth a hand by changing our shopping and eating habits, because, as we all know, she could Take It Back.

Happy Earth Day, if you can feel happy about it, that is.