Your solar alarm clock rings, and you stumble to the bathroom and take a three-minute soak under a water-saving showerhead. After dressing in a hemp sack, you head to the breakfast table, where you make a cup of shade-grown coffee (20 percent of all proceeds go to reforesting the Brazilian rain forest) and chow a natural bran cereal with organic strawberries. In a hybrid van, you carpool to work, where your nonprofit attempts to save the planet over the Internet. It's Gardenburgers for lunch and educational outreach in the afternoon, followed by meditation, a workshop on eco-activism, P-Patch gardening, and a jog in the greenspace that you and your neighbors created through driveway easements. At night you dream about your upcoming vacation to the Great Barrier Reef, where you'll work with scientists to try and communicate with the last remaining school of giant turtles.
No matter how crunchy granola you may be, regardless of your Wallingford address, your two-sided copies, your compost pile, and your pack-it-out mentality, you will not become an eco-warrior in the next few weeks, months, or years. You are entrenched in your current life, committing your time, energy, and money to things that make you happy, feel good, or seem necessary. A procreating consumer, you're generally PC; you recycle, volunteer for your kid's athletic endeavors, and "give at the office"—and that's nice. But it's not nearly enough. The Children's Hospital and NARAL and the United Way are not on the front lines of the most important fight of all—the survival of OTHER species that cannot defend themselves. (Yep, I'm talkin' about the baby seals, redwoods, gorillas in the mist, and the spotted flippin' owl.)
Like many liberals, my own ecological activism has dwindled over the years. Graduating from U.C. Berkeley, I went from canvassing door-to-door for Greenpeace, to becoming an environmental lobbyist for the PIRGs, to organizing work groups for the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, to inventing EARTHALERT, the Active Environmental Game, to sitting on my fat ass and talking about how the temperature seems to be getting warmer.
The good news is, you don't have to jump into a rubber dingy and put yourself between a whale and a harpoon to raise hell. Earth Day activities are as varied as garbage along the interstate: Over the years, I've petitioned folks in front of Thriftway to sign the Earth Day Pledge, biked to work (in L.A., no less), picked up trash in Paradise with the Forest Service, dug out the Duwamish of invasive plants—hell, we made dolls from recycled materials at a preschool one year, and the kids ATE it up (literally). Regardless of how you pitch in, it's as invigorating as a quadruple espresso and, most important, puts you in contact with the groups that slave on these issues day in and day out.
As with National Secretary's Day or any other 24-hour love fest, buying Mother Earth a bouquet of flowers on Earth Day is not the be all and end all (she'd prefer a $10,000 raise). So in addition to planting trees or going carless this weekend, become a lifetime member of a few of your favorite environmental groups. Members of Congress pay attention to the numbers. It makes a huge difference, and it's the least we can do.