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For 40 years, Earth Day’s marketing department has been doing it wrong.

April 22, 2010

Those hands don't care about that earth; they were just in it for the free manicure.

Mr. Flagg had a good point:

“The earth will be fine. We’re the ones who are in danger.”

He told this to my fifth-grade classmates and me shortly before Earth Day 1991, and it’s stuck with me ever since. Environmental messaging, though it’s evolved somewhat, still talks a lot about saving the earth and protecting Mother Nature and caring for the planet.

The earth was created 4.6 billion years ago. All living species have evolved in the years since then, and we humans have only been around for about 300,000 years. Who’s most vulnerable here? It’s true that, using these big brains of ours, we humans have obliterated quite a few species without too much effort.

But there’s no way we’re going to destroy the huge rock we live on before we destroy ourselves.

Our species is an inarguably self-centered bunch, so maybe environmental messaging should appeal less to our eco-concern and more to our ego-centrism. Sure, a more expansive appreciation of the natural world, its intricacies, and our place in it is the real key to our survival, but I’m not sure the appeal-to-reason approach is our best option here.

Our primary concern on Earth Day, as on every day, is really for our very own species, so why don’t we just be upfront about it. To hell with the altruism, common sense, and scientific evidence. Let’s get rid of those hollow appeals for “our children’s children.” Toss all that ridiculous “make a difference” rhetoric out the window.

We need a marketing campaign that knows whom we’re really looking out for: Number One.

Gaylord is probably turning in his grave, but I came up with a few new names for Earth Day that are more sensitive to our species’ narcissism:

  • Humans are the Best Day
  • Most Powerful Species in the World Day
  • World Domination (for the Greater Good) Day

And here are some possible taglines to reach us in our self-absorption:

  • Amphibians: Your key to a long, happy life
  • Hugging trees burns calories.
  • Save time, money, and whales!

And by helping ourselves, we should, by default, be helping other species too.

For instance, when we reduce pollution rates, the birds and squirrels get to breathe the cleaner air too. And when we stop dumping toxic crap into watersheds, our cancer rates will drop, and so will the fishes’.

But we don’t even have to worry our pretty heads about the birds and fish and squirrels. We just have to listen to the new messaging piped into our heads: Living in harmony with the natural environment will make you happier, smarter, richer, and thinner.

Am I hopelessly cynical or is there a shred of validity to this claim?

Car-freely,
Amy

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