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Apr. 21, 2010

Earth Day and the Green Commandments

by Jesse Medalia Strauss

Click to enlarge images

Greetings Dear Reader,

Today is Earth Day, one of the few holidays I actually take seriously. Yet at the same time, it is also a holiday that I find is ridiculous that we need have in the first place. Everything comes from the Earth. Everyday we pillage for its resources, not just for our survival, but mainly to support our lifestyle, a lifestyle of excess and consumption. A lifestyle that is nothing more than a perversion of the American Dream and by consequence inhibits the survival of others and sucks the lifeblood out of our very tolerating planet.

Everyday we fly through our Earth’s air, we cut down its forests, we fish its seas, we pollute its rivers, we drill its grounds, we hunt its animals, and we pour heaping clouds of smoke into the sky. However, we only dedicate one day to say, “thanks planet that has supported my life for so long, please let me continue to walk all over you without any repercussions.” But the obvious problem is this, the Earth can only take so much abuse and unless we start treating the Earth everyday with the respect it so well deserves we will see first hand what happens when our planet decides its not gonna take it anymore.

The obligation we all have to the Earth is an individual one. There are changes, some drastic, some minute that we can make in our lifestyles, to show the Earth we care. Here is the moral code that I do my best to live by at all times of the year. Think of them as The Green Ten Commandments, only instead of written on stone tablet, they are typed on virtual, carbon free Internet paper.

Green Commandment I: The Earth is your home. You have no home before the Earth.

Whether we like it or not, we are all citizens of the globe. We have a greater responsibility to the whole than to the individual. If we can ensure the survival of the whole, all will be taken care of, including the self. Honor the Earth as if it was your home, because it is your home.

Green Commandment II: Avoid driving whenever possible.

I am nineteen years old. I do not own a car, nor do I have a license. I am a man of public transportation. Granted, I grew up in New York City and now live in Washington, DC so that’s hardly a sacrifice. I’m sure if you’re a suburban kid, you’re about ready to cross this one right off the list. Well hold on. Every town, no matter how small should have some form of 24-hour bus system. In fact, back in the day, most of them did. Car companies would seek these towns out and do everything in their power to dismantle the bus system to force the inhabitants to rely on cars. Write your state senators; go to your town hall meetings, run for office, advocate for this. You will create jobs, and save a lot on gas. Or you can just follow the third commandment.

Green Commandment III: Avoid living in the suburbs whenever possible.

The average New Yorker has a carbon footprint that is 75% less than the national average. There is a reason for this. A suburban lifestyle makes it nearly impossible to be green. A house uses substantially more energy than an apartment and statistically speaking there are most likely multiple cars per household. Living in the city means you don’t have to drive, you’re in close proximity to your job, you take up less space, use less energy and have greater access to recycling options.

Green Commandment IV: Eat only local, grass fed, organic meats whenever possible.

I have a very strict requirement when eating meat. It must be grass fed (if it is beef) and it must be local (unless I’m on vacation in another country, then all food is fair game). Industrialized meat is one of the top contributors to climate change. The amount of oil it takes to raise a single cow for McDonalds would astound you. Grass fed, and local is healthier for you and more humane for the animal and produces fresher, tastier meat. Also all game meat fits this criteria, and believe me, a rabbit or elk sandwich is much more interesting than a burger.

Green Commandment V: Buy local, organic and fair-trade whenever possible.

The fastest way to get corporations to greenafy their practices is not through legislation, it’s simply buying already greenafied products. Take my favorite beverage, Honest Tea, for example. Honest Tea only uses organic, fair trade tea and recyclable packaging. Because of that, a lot of people started to buy it, so many people that Coca Cola began to take interest. Now Coke owns 40% of the company. Nothing has changed about the green standards of the product, all that’s changed is more people now have access to it and the price has gone down. Remember, five years ago there was no organic section at Wal-Mart. The more we buy green products the more corporations will try to deliver them. That’s really how you can change the world.

Green Commandment VI: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle whenever possible.

I’m sure if we look hard, we can all find products we don’t need to buy, we all have bags and water bottles we can reuse and we all can take that extra time to recycle. You’ll save money and it’s a small effort on your part. You’ll be doing the Earth a lot of good.

Green Commandment VII: Shutdown, unplug, buy solar whenever possible.

It’s not that hard to save energy. When you go outside, turn off the lights, turn off the air conditioning and unplug some of your stuff. To save energy further, buy Energy Star rated products. You’ll save a lot on your electric bill. If you want a return on your electric bill, invest in solar panels for your house. You will actually be generating electricity and will be paid to do so buy electric companies.

Green Commandment VIII: Invest in green technologies whenever possible.

The greatest thing you can do, if you have money floating around, is invest in green. Make green profitable. You can create jobs and drive innovation towards making the world a better place. It will work out nicely for you in the short run and will do wonders for all of us in the long run.

Green Commandment IX: Vote green whenever possible.

Be informed, listen to what politicians have to say, look at their campaign contributions and make sure they have the well being of the Earth in mind. Every election we empower individuals with enormous influence and decision-making capacity. They are in the best position to bring about change. Don’t be afraid to hold their feet to the fire and if ensuring the Earth remains inhabitable for your grandchildren isn’t at the forefront of their policy, don’t be afraid to vote them out. Vote early, vote often.

Green Commandment X: Spread the word, stay active, get involved whenever possible.

If you can follow these commandments to the best of your ability, you will be making a difference. If you want to make a great difference, get someone else to do it too. Talk to your friends, write your local papers or your favorite blog sites, make a movie, join a group. We are above all else a community and we must stand united. The best way to ensure our survival is not to cut each other’s throats but to work as a community, to work for each other. Like I said, we all have an individual obligation to honor the Earth, because the Earth represents the whole. To honor your obligation to the Earth is to honor your obligation to your peers. You have to make sure they are working too. You have spread the word, you have to educate.

Everyday day we are alive is a day spent on Earth. Everyday is Earth Day. We cannot set aside one day of the year to care about our home. It must be everyday. We must constantly be improving ourselves, constantly striving to better our community, to achieve new levels of greatness. We have to set an example right now for the next generation and the generation after that. We have to show the future that the meaning of life is to leave the Earth better than you found it, to be a positive influence, give back to your community and pass on what you have learned. We have to set this example for the future, because if we fail to do so, there may be no future for us at all.

Be Skeptical, Be Critical, Take Nothing On Faith.

All the best,
Jesse M. S.

About Jesse Medalia Strauss

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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