Earth Day : not enough of a celebration in Canada

On April 1st 2009 the “news for the rest of us” website rabble.ca posted a story headlined Stephen Harper announces cancellation of Earth Day. It was, of course, an April Fool’s Day joke but by 2014 it seems to have come true without any action on the part of Canada’s government. Just to conclude the April 1st 2009 reference, rabble.ca reported that “Canada’s Conservative government, said Harper, will be introducing a motion in Parliament to cancel the April 22 celebration of Earth Day, replacing it with Oil Sands Day”.

Roaming around federal websites it is difficult to find any significant references to Earth Day. Environment Canada does have a link to Celebrate Earth Day on April 22. Find out how the Government of Canada is taking action today for a more environmentally-friendly and sustainable tomorrow but when you click on it you land on a boring web page with mostly old departmental sustainable development strategy reports, hardly inspirational material. It is almost as if the Prime Minister’s Office ordered federal ministers to pay no attention to Earth Day. Even Earth Day Canada, the ngo which seeks to drum up awareness of the environment for earth day, has only a few events listed on its calendar for April 22, though a few more are listed, 56 in all across the entire country, for other days in the month. South of the border, President Obama celebrated Earth Day by warning Americans of the disastrous consequences of climate change.

What’s gone wrong with Earth Day? In Gallondaily’s opinion:

  • the lack of federal government leadership on Earth Day and on the environment has virtually killed interest in Earth Day.
  • the relative success of Earth Hour, an irrelevant turning out of the lights for an hour back in March, has overwhelmed interest in Earth Day. Competition of this kind between rival environmental ngos is crazy and ultimately destructive to their cause.
  • perhaps most significantly, Earth Day Canada’s greed, understandable in a time of reduced funding for environmental causes but still unforgivable because of its impact in quashing corporate support for, and interest in, Earth Day is slowly killing the event. Some years ago Earth Day Canada trademarked the term Earth Day and the organization now prohibits companies from using it unless their activities are in line with Earth Day Canada objectives and they pay a fee to Earth Day Canada. Non-profits are still free to use it without payment of a fee. In the US the term is considered public domain and all kinds of companies, as well as communities and ngos, promote Earth Day in some form. Earth Day needs business much more than business needs Earth Day.

It is possible that it is time to bring Earth Day to a graceful end and GallonDaily would almost certainly urge that approach if it were not for the fact that Earth Day has a pretty good profile in many other countries. Environmental solutions need global co-operation. To demonstrate environmental co-operation and responsibility, Gallondaily recommends:

  • Earth Day Canada drop its control of use of the term Earth Day.
  • businesses resume their involvement in appropriate celebration of Earth Day in 2015.
  • the Prime Minister issue a statement of support for Earth Day.
  • WWF Canada merge Earth Hour with Earth Day into a more effective celebration of the environment.

With the above suggestions implemented it is possible that Earth Day in Canada can be got back on track. If not, let’s end it and find more effective ways of mobilizing public interest in, and support for, Canada’s environment.

The above is a GallonDaily original opinion.

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