Apr 22

Happy Earth Day! No Guilt, Just Joy

Holidays are hard. As a kid, you’re always encouraged to pick a favorite. I was never quite able to settle. There’s no Book Day after all (I mean, I’m sure there is now, along with all sorts of other fantastic holidays such as Towel Day, Bring Your Velociraptor to Work Day, World Oceans Day, and Endangered Species Day, but I think we can all agree we’re talking about the more mainstream holidays here.)

Thanksgiving? I don’t like turkey. Nor am I crazy about pumpkin pie, stuffing, or sweet potatoes.

Not a turkey

Valentine’s Day? The candy and hearts at Valentines are nice, but not the resulting stomachache from too many conversation hearts.

Halloween? I startle easily, don’t enjoy the macabre, and can never think of a costume anyone else will recognize. (Even the year I went as Dian Fossey and carried a stuffed gorilla with a name badge clearly stating, “Hello, my name is Digit,” no one got it.)

Fourth of July is fun, and everyone loves a picnic, but again with the startling easily. (And, as I got older, I’m beginning to wonder what chemicals, exactly, all these fireworks put into the air. I should probably actually look into that.)

Easter is usually too cold to really enjoy your pretty new dress and egg hunting (at least in the Midwest).

Christmas is always a safe bet, of course, what with all the family time, as long as you can get through the stress of shopping and planning unscathed. (I am, incidentally, getting better at this).

But Earth Day? This is a day for everyone. It’s a day to celebrate the planet—one of the only reasons we’re all here, after all—and the magnificent awe-inspiring processes that keep us living and thriving. It’s a day to think about all those cool, exciting miracles that happen everyday: the capturing of sunlight by plants, who helpfully turn it into food the rest of us can eat. The marvelous processes that makes our air breathable and our climate livable. The jewel-like multifaceted ecological systems that surround and enmesh us, tying us to the planet, to life, to reality.

This isn’t a day about guilt. Or it shouldn’t be. Of course we could all do better, and we should do better. There’s no sense in yelling at people for being hypocrites or not doing enough—it just makes them sad, discouraged, and grumpy. Instead, celebrate any and all progress toward a healthier planet, and a healthier humanity.


This capybara wants you to shake off your shame and guilt.

We should do better out of love, not out of shame and fear, as hippie as that sounds.

In fact, there’s no better day to be a hippie. Listen to John Denver. Sing with Kermit about being green. Be unabashedly dorky, and loving, and joyful.

Pick up a piece of trash off the ground, a gesture that’s the same as wiping spaghetti sauce off a beloved’s face.

Take as much joy and pride in caring for a plant as you would in braiding a darling daughter’s hair.

This wood duck demonstrates the proper method of reveling in a sunbeam.

This wood duck demonstrates the proper method of reveling in a sunbeam.

Marvel in the fearful beauty and wonder of a bird, a squirrel, an insect, a mushroom, a dust mite.

Tread lightly, but not out of duty: as part of a dance of joy. Embrace the planet. Revel in your existence as a biological organism, a part of a cycle, a ecosystem of tiny critters yourself.

Love the planet, and let it love you (small, insignificant, grubby, miraculous little you) back.

Wood duck

Happy Earth Day!

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