The Problem With Earth Day


Photo from National Geographic

In elementary school, Earth Day probably meant planting a little flower in a milk carton or a lecture about reduce, reuse and, recycle. When I was in elementary school, I looked forward to Earth Day even though I had no clue what its purpose was; I just knew at the end of the day I was just going to go home with a cute plant. And that is where the problem lies. We don’t need a day to be lectured about what bin each type of trash goes in; we need a change in mentality so we can see that this is our world and it is our responsibility to treat the environment well.

Living in cities today can often foster a feeling of disconnect from nature. As a teen who has grown up in New York City, I certainly feel disconnected from nature. Like many others, a majority of my day is spent indoors in front of a computer screen and the closest I can get to nature is Central Park.

There is a difference between knowing about environmental issues and truly understanding what they mean to us and the world. For example, how can I possibly understand the issue of having access to clean water when there was never a day in my life where I had to worry if I was going to have water or not? How can we fight for our planet when we never see the consequences of our actions? The only way to solve this disconnection is to step away from our cell phone screens and have with direct contact and involvement with nature. The Huffington Post interviewed Susan Clayton, a researcher who surveyed whether or not people who visited zoos and aquariums felt more concern about climate change, and found that, “Exposing people to nature in an accessible way- at their local zoos and aquariums- can help to mediate feelings of disconnection to nature…” Clayton found that feelings of connection to animals at zoos or aquariums were associated with increased concern over climate change. Even just doing something as simple as visiting a zoo created a stronger connection between people and the environment.t is this relationship that urges a fight for and change environmental issues.

To make adequate change in our environment we have to change our mindset. For example, it is so easy to buy a plastic bottle or use a plastic bag just out of convenience. It is even easier to toss that plastic bag or bottle in the trash can at the corner of the street but where does the trash go from there? Getting rid of our ingrained ideology and comfort with using disposable products is something everyone can do to take better care of the environment, but having grown up in a place where every supermarket trip means another 5-10 plastic bags, I understand that this change will be hard. However, it is about consistently doing something rather than waiting for Earth Day to come around to even make an effort. In addition, the mindset of “I’m only one person; my actions can’t change the world” is detrimental because it’s true you can’t change the world on your own but there is strength in numbers.

I agree that Earth Day is great to spread awareness about environmental issues and educate younger children, but real change can only be made with a change in mentality. So yes, use a reusable water bottle and bring a tote bag with you to the market but not because it is Earth Day; do it because we have to treat the environment with respect everyday.


Note: If you don’t have a reusable tote bag yet the environmental club will be selling super cool Berkeley Carroll tote bags in the near future so LOOK OUT!