It struck Amalia as odd, of course. To see a slew of emails “celebrating” Earth Day by offering various discounts and sales. Were these companies somehow blissfully unaware that capitalism was the very thing killing Earth? Or rather, making it uninhabitable to “consumers”? And yet, wasn’t it totally “on-brand” for corporations to take advantage of any “event”—no matter how antithetical to its cause—to boost sales? Being so low as to use Earth Day as an opportunity for selling more of their frivolous wares was proof of that. The fact that 2023’s theme even had “corporate language” attached to it (“Invest in Our Planet”) was telling of how commodified the “holiday” had become. Except it wasn’t a holiday, was it? Honoring Mother Earth wasn’t deemed worthy enough of giving people an actual day off from laboring to effectively destroy it. And yes, all paid labor leads to the destruction of Mamma Natura in some form or other. If for no other reason than being paid prompts people to buy useless shit they don’t need, setting off a chain reaction of fossil fuel-emitting occurrences.
Amalia had, at one point in her life, worked for a large corporation. Like most “e-commerce” outfits, it basically sold everything under the evermore-harmful sun—from cheap-looking clothes to “bric-a-brac.” And she had made a fairly decent amount of money doing it. Enough to live “comfortably” in L.A. at least. Which meant living alone in a studio apartment, being able to go out to restaurants several times a week and buying coffee most mornings. True middle-class “luxury” in the modern age. Nothing so lofty as home ownership or trips around the globe or being able to afford the extra costs of propagating the species a.k.a. “starting a family.” Amalia had resigned herself to sologamous solitude around the time she quit her job and decided to risk greater destitution for the sake of regaining some semblance of her soul. That meant moving out of the studio and sharing an apartment with three other roommates in Culver City. It also meant no more restaurant outings or arbitrary coffee runs. Every penny had to be pinched so that she could evade working for a corporation. Instead, she painted and sold her art wherever she could set up shop. Sometimes, that meant participating in legitimate “art walks,” others it meant sitting “illegally” with it near places like Santa Monica Pier until she was shooed away.
Roughly two years of this lifestyle had reminded her why raging corporate capitalism was so glamorous. It provided more “comfort.” More “convenience.” There was nothing convenient about being an anti-capitalist, and that was by design. The invisible powers in control certainly didn’t want anyone to stray away from the “flock.” And those who did would be severely punished…by poverty. That was the comeuppance Amalia was suffering as she found herself bombarded by the slew of emails from various corporations shilling their shit; these were emails she had signed on to receive during her comatose period. When she was totally numb to the damage she was doing. Yet now that she was hyper-aware of it, the absurdity of these emails assailed her with their gall most especially on Earth Day, featuring such subject lines as “Celebrate Earth Day With Us”—from a fucking airline, source extraordinaire of CO2 emissions—and “Celebrate Earth Day, Save on an Avis Rental.” Yes, let one feel encouraged to rent a car on Earth Day, electric or not. As if that didn’t have its own set of environmental impact issues thanks to the lithium battery manufacture and disposal required to keep the EV cycle going. No, there was no “real” solution, only the illusion that everyone was doing “what they could” to try to prevent the inevitable: Earth’s mass inhospitability to those who couldn’t afford to evade it.
Amalia would be one of those people, just another “average Earthling” biding her time until the fallout. And buying some more shit in between. So you know what, fuck it, she said to herself as she clicked on the email to get the promo code. Why not rent a car to “celebrate” Earth Day? Or rather, the fact that Earth had put up with all this fuckery for as long as it had. It was well overdue to jettison the dead weight known as “humanity”—displaying no such signs of that quality in its treatment of Gaia and all the other animals she nurtured that were being ousted by the selfishness and unchecked material lust of people. Sheeple was more like it of course. All of them buying these piles and piles of literal garbage (see: the discarded clothing “mountains” in places like Chile) just to be “liked.” “Seen.” As if anyone could ever see past their own ass with their heads so far up it.
In a state of simultaneous calm and fury (a calm fury, if you will), she decided to drive up to Santa Barbara, the site of Earth Day’s initial catalyst. For it was the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969 that set Earth Day in motion. All because a senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, was flying over (therefore emitting CO2, so how ironic) the California coast near Santa Barbara and could see the full effects of what the oil spill had wrought. He had come to the coastal city, like many other politicians at that time, to witness the aftermath of the spill. Even Richard Nixon made a cameo. Taking time out from his paranoia and bigotry to show love for Mother Nature that was, as usual, too little, too late. In any case, Nelson was spurred into action about raising environmental awareness with various “teach-ins” throughout the U.S. Along with declaring the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 (naming the day as such was courtesy of adman Julian Koenig, who could sell cars [e.g., the VW Beetle] and “Earth Day” without seeming to care about the contradiction). While nobly-intentioned (as so many “Band-Aids” are), it had done little to change the inevitable outcome: total climate destruction. Amalia could see it all around her as she drove to Santa Barbara after picking her car up at the Avis on Highland. Los Angeles was a bastion of vehicular reverence. Enduring proof that Americans would rather choke on the exhaust fumes and die then make an inconvenient lifestyle change. Amalia was tired of feeling like the only one who was enraged, which was part of her decision to simply give in, as so many others do. In the end, it’s like surrendering to freezing to death—it’s just easier than trying to fight it.
As she drove along the Pacific Coast Highway, she thought of all the things that had led to Earth Day, ultimately another charade. Another thing we as humans can use to tell ourselves, “At least we tried.” It was all due to that oil spill in 1969, described by Gladwin Hill as the “ecological ‘shot heard round the world.’” And the shots keep firing. Except not in defense of Mother Nature, only against her. To “celebrate” this, Amalia eventually parked and made her way toward the Santa Barbara Channel, where she got as close as she could to view Platform A, the very source of the “blow-out” that caused the spill back in 1969. At the time, everyone was sure it could never be overtaken as “the biggest oil spill in U.S. waters.” But, it didn’t take too much longer before Exxon Valdez and then Deepwater Horizon would usurp Platform A’s “hijinks.” And yes, Platform A is still drilling oil to this day. In an alternate universe, Nixon is still taking a helicopter tour over it to assess the damage, perhaps given the seeds of the idea to found the so-called Environmental Protection Agency.
And all Amalia could do (like so many), as she stood there listening to the toxic waves lap back and forth, was sit and watch. Occasionally laughing at the insanity and the hypocrisy, not merely of others, but herself. For the more each new “Earth Day” passes, the more of a running joke it becomes. Just another non sequitur sales opportunity, really.