Why Do We Celebrate Earth Day?

The persistence of the movement is directly related to the persistent greed of the plunderers, yet they can’t understand why we continue to celebrate Earth Day.

“Here it comes again,” grump the barons of Big Oil and other corporate plunderers of our natural resources: another damn year to celebrate Earth Day. After 51 years, they gripe, this global hoorah is outdated; time for people and the media to move on from the old Save-the-Earth hoopla.

Do they think we have sucker wrappers around our heads? First, Earth Day is not a hoorah but a call to action. Second, “Save The Earth” is not hoopla but an imperative cause for human survival. And third, the persistence of the movement is directly related to the persistent greed of the plunderers. After all, this day doesn’t celebrate a planet but the feistiness of the human spirit, the tenacity of millions of everyday people committed to the ethic of good stewardship — people like Diane Wilson of Seadrift, Texas, a fourth-generation shrimper on the Gulf Coast.

Wilson is the personification of persistence, having spent 40 years daring to challenge the raw greed of Formosa Plastics, a multibillion-dollar Taiwanese chemical giant whose gross pollution has devastated the fishing ecology and economy of Lavaca Bay and other waters in her home area. And — hallelujah! — last August, Wilson’s indefatigable spirit prevailed, for she won the largest private citizen’s lawsuit in U.S. history against an industrial polluter!

She’s getting no time to savor the victory, though, for here comes another multibillion-dollar polluter, a British-financed oil slick named Max Midstream, mounting a new assault on this same fragile ecosystem. Max has long been scheming to dredge a deep and wide ship channel through Matagorda Bay so massive oil tankers can reach a huge new crude oil export terminal that Max intends to own there. Aside from the surely inevitable petrochemical pollution this would bring to these waterways, Max proposes to plow its channel straight through an underwater Superfund site containing a deposit of mercury that an old Alcoa plant had carelessly dumped there for years.

But look out, Max — here comes Diane again! Just as she did in the Formosa fight, she’s putting her own health on the line. On April 7, she launched a hunger strike to draw attention to the profiteering maneuvers of this latest corporate plunderer, calling on President Biden to cancel Max’s dredging permit.

That’s why Earth Day exists and persists — to celebrate and extend the fighting spirit of grassroots champions like Diane Wilson. Be a part of it. To sign her online petition to Joe Biden, go to bit.ly/StopDredging.

Many threats to the fragile, life-sustaining natural resources of Planet Earth are readily apparent — oil spills, dirty air, clearcutting, fish kills, etc. But very few of us can see (much less comprehend) an equally devastating new threat called “financial innovation.”

This is a Wall Street creature, and we Earth Day celebrants definitely need to be up in arms, as it stalks one of our most basic resources: water. Everyone knows that water is invaluable — it literally is life, covering 71% of our planet, making up 60% of our own bodies and requiring a constant intake by all of us … or we will quickly die. But a dangerous new ethic has recently slithered into the question of who gets water. It maintains that potable H2O is a commodity that is not only physically, environmentally, spiritually and otherwise valuable but also a perishable economic good that can be market priced, like oil or gold.

This contrivance has opened the door for the financial manipulators that Wall Street “ethicists” call innovators, and they’ve been quietly devising to razzle-dazzle schemes to allow rich global investors to play in water. So, now we have water futures contracts, automated split-second trading, “water grabbing” ventures, hedging schemes and other financialization hustles to maneuver the monetary value of this essential resource.

To see this ethically debased future, look to an outfit with the ominous acronym WAM (Water Asset Management). It’s buying up water rights in low-income farming communities in places like Arizona and then literally moving the “commodity” to rich suburban developments that will pay more. WAM profiteers call water peddling “the biggest emerging market on Earth … a trillion-dollar market opportunity.” They boast that the crises of “drought, flood, and fire” caused by climate change creates a market volatility that will provide “an unprecedented period of transformation and investment opportunity for the water industry,” allowing investors to “thrive and prosper.”

On this Earth Day and beyond, let’s raise the issues of global pollution and sustainability but also begin to force a public discussion about this crucial question of environmental and existential ethics: Is access to an affordable supply of clean water to be a human right for all, or will we let it become a wet dream for a cabal of rich speculators?

Jim Hightower