- - Sunday, April 21, 2019

This isn’t your father’s Earth Day. The celebration of all things “green” turns 49 on Monday, and it’s starting to show the inevitable signs of age. That might be a good thing. With the passage of the years comes a preference for results over rhetoric. A good way to celebrate the planet’s magnificent fauna and flora is simply to keep it clean.

The annual observance began in 1970 when for many young Americans it was a day to cut school without consequences and to congregate in the park, an Arbor Day without the dirty hands that come with planting trees. Environmentalist merry-making reached a crescendo in 2016 when President Obama chose the day to sign the Paris Climate Agreement, and 120 other nations joined him.

Pledging to save the planet from climate change by reducing greenhouse gases, the inevitable byproduct of human industry, has proved to be mission impractical, however, and President Trump rescinded America’s participation in its onerous, anti-growth objectives. Other nations have followed in practice, if not in principle.

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Die-hard eco-warriors and their opportunistic counterparts in politics have leaped onto the Green New Deal, with its promise of a night train to London, powered by sun and wind, as an alternative to polluting airliners. The Green New Deal demands the elimination of the fossil fuels that now supply the nation with more than three-quarters of its energy. The deal is called “aspirational” by its congressional apologists, but for those who work for a living, it sounds asinine.

Apart from the heated rhetoric over the dangers of global warming, a less boisterous but more down-to-earth Earth Day endures. Gone is the Global Citizen Festival on the National Mall, which in recent times attracted celebrity star power to the cause and left behind mountains of bottles, cans, Styrofoam containers and other trash for the landfill. This year, revelers can still gather to hear the Global Citizen message set to music, but only if they get to Berlin by May 21. The Earth moved.

The theme for Earth Day 2019 is further aspirational: “Protect our species,” and who could argue? “Unfortunately, human beings have irrevocably upset the balance of nature,” warns Earthday.org, “and, as a result, the world is facing the greatest rate of extinction since we lost the dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago.” Using the word “we” is a literary indulgence since Homo sapiens were only a glimmer in the eye of the Creator when the dinosaurs returned to dust.

Still, the larger point is a laudable one. In the spirit of common cause with our planetary co-inhabitants, Earth Day is intended this year to “educate and raise awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and the causes and consequences of this phenomenon.” Life forms worthy of special attention include bees, giraffes, coral reefs, whales, trees and lots of insects. (Bugs, in the vernacular.)

Not everyone celebrating Earth Day may feel called to hug a bug, as environmentalists urge, by building a miniature Jurassic Park in the back yard. “For those with an outdoor garden,” the memo says, “creating a compost pile provides fertile habitats for insects.”

The prospect of extinction is no laughing matter (and we’re not laughing). With that sobering thought in mind, Americans from coast to coast can observe Earth Day by engaging in the simple ritual of picking up trash. Dozens of American cities large and small are hosting clean-up days when volunteers gather to fight humanity’s most blatant assault on the environment. Littering is disgusting.

The good news is that volunteers for the the clean-up of some places, like the District of Columbia’s Anacostia River watershed, are so plentiful that they must register and sign a waiver of damages for the privilege of collecting rubbish. Heaven forbid the muddy tributary that snakes past Capitol Hill run dry of plastic bags and old tires before clean-up organizers run out of free T-shirts.

In San Francisco, where militant progressives are eager to instruct the unwary to live greenly, residents have more to dread from stink than extinction. Forbes online has mapped 132,562 splashes of human feces on the city’s streets since 2008. On Earth Day or any other day, San Franciscans stand ready (squat ready?) to answer the call of nature. How green is that? If Earth Day inspires the planet’s inhabitants to pick up after themselves, that’s a climate of consideration all species can live with. We will all deserve to share that hug with a bug.

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