8 Best Earth Day Ideas

Thoughtful commentary from across the political spectrum

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Today is the fortieth celebration of Earth Day. To honor the event, the Atlantic Wire has selected the day's best themed writing from across the political spectrum.

  • Challenges No Longer So Visible  AP writer Seth Borenstein chronicles the tremendous victories of the environmental movement, turning toxic rivers into swimmable waterways with breathtaking effectiveness and speed. Yet today's challenges involving global warming, he writes, unlike rivers set aflame, "are largely invisible--and therefore tougher to tackle."
  • A Conservative Case for Conservation  Steve Hayward at the National Review pulls out an excerpt from a passionate, poetic argument for the Endangered Species Act. He then reveals it to be not the words of some "Gore-worshipping greenie" but rather of Sen. James Buckley, writing in a National Review cover story in 1979. Here's the excerpt:
[The objective of the Endangered Species Act] represents a quantum jump in man’s acknowledgment of his moral responsibility for the integrity of the natural world he passes on to future generations. It is this which lends the Endangered Species Act its special significance. It recognizes values, be they ethical or aesthetic, that transcend the purely practical and admit to awe in the face of the diversity of creation. Not everyone will be moved by them, and they no more lend themselves to a cost-benefit analysis than does a Bach chorale. But surely it is an act of unseemly arrogance to decree the extinction of a unique form of life without compelling justification. Such an act is irreversible, and it diminishes by however small a fraction the biological diversity that has come down to us from eons past.
  • 'The Economy and the Environment Are Two Sides to the Same Coin'  At The Huffington Post, Conservation International co-founder and CEO Peter Seligmann looks at the connection between solving environmental problems and solving unemployment problems. More broadly, he writes, "The goals of prosperity and sustainability can only be met together. Our society urgently needs to come to the realization that people can only thrive when nature does."
  • Think Like a Child  The New York Times' Allison Arieff highlights the work of twelve-year-old Adora Svitak, who suggests in lectures that adults need to be more "childish," approaching problems like global warming and the environment with the absolutist sort of idealism of the young, before they've learned to think constantly about reasons not to do something or why something can't be done. Here's Svitak speaking:

  • Avatar, Earth Day, and the Contradictions of Liberalism and Modernity  Thomas Hibbs, in a National Review column we singled out for our daily "5 Best," explores modern liberalism's complicated relationship with technology and modernity, as seen in the film Avatar (released on DVD today in order to coincide with Earth Day). "The threat of irrevocable loss" in Avatar is "quite credible," Hibbs says, and similar to "a sentiment that has often been at the heart of conservatism: the worry that gambling on cosmopolitan forces of progress not only carries with it unintended consequences but also exacts a cost in the erosion of traditional customs and the destruction of intermediate institutions." But the film is both facile and ideological incoherent, he says: the Na'vi wind up seeming to embrace some of the technology that threatens them. Ultimately, he implies, the world is more complex than either Avatar or today's partisan rhetoric seem to recognize. The left's fear of environmental degradation and the right's fear of cloning may share an origin: an aversion to "a conception of the external world and the body itself as mere property, raw material to be manipulated to satisfy untrammeled human desire."
  • Why Nuclear Power Is the Answer  The Heritage Foundation's Jack Spencer thinks "conserving the nation's environmental beauty and natural resources is something that most Americans can agree on." He lists the ways in which nuclear power, with tremendous energy production, can meet goals in conservation, lower emissions, and fewer ecosystem disruptions.
  • The Failure of the Environmental Movement  Celebrated writer and environmentalist leader Bill McKibben argues in the Washington Post that, despite gains in cleaning up rivers, "for 20 years now, global warming has been the most important environmental issue--arguably the most important issue the planet has ever faced. And there we can boast an unblemished bipartisan record of accomplishing absolutely nothing." This is in part due to a weakness in environmentalism itself, "which no longer does enough real organizing to build the pressure that could result in real change." Not convinced? He suggests readers "look at the average age of [environmental groups'] members."
  • What Does Obama Have Against Whales?  Getting down to specifics, Change.org's Stephanie Feldstein wonders why, when "the majority of Americans agree that commercial whaling should be stopped," the Obama administration is considering lifting the ban on the practice. "Even George W. Bush upheld the whaling ban," she protests.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.