TURNER: First World Privilege Sustained Earth Day Event For 49 Years

Daniel Turner Contributor
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Earth Day 2020 was a non-event. The population which typically attends the various Earth Day concerts, events, rallies, marches and protests (all decrying fossil fuels and demanding we “do something” about climate change) was dutifully obeying their respective governments’ lockdown orders.

But let’s be honest (or, to use one of my most hated phrases, let’s speak truth to power): Earth Day wasn’t canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. It wasn’t canceled because global citizens practiced social distancing guidelines or because municipalities denied permits for large scale gatherings.


Earth Day was canceled because amidst worrying about family, employment, finances, etc., the luxury of environmental awareness was rendered ancillary. If climate change awareness were a government worker, it would be deemed “non-essential.”

Furthermore, the day was only sustained these past 49 years by one thing: first world privilege. A combination of bored suburban moms, aged hippies whose activist tendencies outlasted the Vietnam War, brainwashed young people told the world is about to end and beta males longing to demonstrate they could be strong all had one day to feign conviction.

Earth Day gave them validation.

None of them actually understand that the PA system broadcasting “This Land is Your Land” or the water bottle from Fiji are all fossil fuels products. None understand that the enormous plastic backdrop emblazoned with a crafty hashtag, the greatest weapon a leftist warrior has in his/her/zim arsenal, are all made from oil. Thousands board buses headed to a demonstration where activists hand out printed tee shirts all demanding an end to fossil fuels. The irony went right over their head every year.

And last year, Earth Day’s 49th Anniversary, was lit.

In DC protesters blocked traffic by leaving sailboats at major downtown intersections.  I’m still unsure of the significance of using sailboats, but the irony of carbon fiber vessels trucked in by and hitched to SUVs was not lost on me. Fossil fuels even make green protests more efficient and cost effective.

Side note: at the orders of Mayor Muriel Bowser the police stood down. For hours the sailboat protestors prevented regular joes from getting to work. It is unclear if the mayor will give the same leniency to pro-life groups or any perceived “right-of-center” protestors, but demonstrations in the name of the Earth are given great leniency.

Earth Day 2020 was supposed to be the big one. The 50th Anniversary!  This would be the year where Hollywood A-Lister speeches on the national mall would change the world. This year the Peter, Paul, and Mary tunes would shake the halls of Congress. This year Jane Fonda’s will would be done. With enough tweets, enough hand-made signs, enough chanting “Hey, Hey! Ho, Ho! Fossil fuels have got to go!” they would stay in the ground forever.

Instead those same warriors were at home, logging onto Zoom meetings from their laptop while the kids did virtual learning. The thermostat was set to a cozy 72 degrees. Mom ordered supplies from Instacart. Dad had UberEats no-contact lunch delivery en route. Yes, that same insufferable family who last Earth Day called in sick at work and school “because the planet is sick” and who marched on the national mall to “send a message” to some nebulous authority is now making choreographed tic-toc videos on their smartphone blithely unaware that that same fossil fuels they protested last year are truly life-sustaining this Earth Day.

Maybe the hypocrisy will make a return next year. For now, the one-year hiatus from stupidity brings me great joy. It says much about the sincerity and the fortitude of the activists themselves. As someone who works in this space, I need to know who my adversaries are, and this year has given me great insight: they are gutless bandwagoners.

Just a few months ago Greta Thunberg, Scandinavian green teen extraordinaire, led a global movement inspiring kids to walk out of school on Fridays to raise awareness about the existential threat of climate change. From Sweden to South Africa, angry tweens defied school orders and truancy laws all because of their deeply held belief in the overwhelming moral obligation to tell the world to take the threat seriously.

This year they can’t leave the kitchen table? Getting detention for cutting class was a proud battle scar, but sneaking out of the house on mom’s watchful eye? No way. Maybe these kids are afraid of getting the coronavirus, but what does it matter if the world is “literally going to end in 10 years if we don’t do something” about climate change? Where’s the courage?

Moral conviction shouldn’t be so fickle. The green Generation Z has the rectitude of a Vermont same sex couple with the “Coexist” bumper sticker proudly displayed on the back of their Subaru who steals a Trump lawn sign. Anyone can be a champion for change so long as there is no hardship. “Hey everyone, the government says we can’t eat at this lunch counter” said Martin Luther King never.

Some environmental activists may argue Earth Day wasn’t canceled at all and that the virtual gatherings online were just as impactful, but that’s pure spin. Earth Day 2020 was as significant as Arbor Day. Congrats, you got a Google Doodle. “Earth Day” wasn’t even trending on Twitter. Worldwide it had the weight and gravitas as a cousin’s birthday reminder which popped up on your calendar. Mother Earth got a “happy bday man!” text.

The green movement has successfully pushed a binary narrative: either you love the earth, or you love fossil fuels.  This is false. We can have both a robust energy industry that drives our economy and our quality of life along with a clean, healthy, vibrant planet. In fact, in America, we have exactly that. Spending most of my time with the men and women who work in energy, where they dig for coal in their communities, drill for oil in the outskirts of their hometown, frack on their own land, I can say definitively they love the Earth more than most people because it is theirs. It’s their air, their water, their land. They don’t need an Earth Day to tell them to respect it. They respect it every day.

The 50th Anniversary of Earth Day was celebrated correctly: privileged people, the ones who would otherwise be taking selfies at a protest feigning indignation, stayed home warm, fed, lights on, appliances running, hot water in the shower, streaming Tiger King. The people in the First World who are the first to demand we end fossil fuels are the least likely to ever stop using them.

Energy workers make all that privilege possible. And every time little Preston makes a Pop Tart or mom MacKenzie brews another K-Cup they acknowledge, even tacitly, their immense gratitude for our American way of life undergirded by abundant, reliable, inexpensive and domestic fossil fuels.

Hopefully 2020 will be the end of the stupidity and hypocrisy that was Earth Day.

Daniel Turner is the founder and executive director of Power The Future, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for American energy jobs. Contact him at daniel@powerthefuture.com and follow him on Twitter @DanielTurnerPTF