I think the first time I became aware of Earth day must have been right at the beginning of it.
I don’t remember precisely, you see. It’s not just that as you get older the days before about fifteen get really fuzzy, it’s that they were fuzzy at the time. These were revolutionary days in Portugal and the essence of a revolution — as I tried to capture in Through Fire, which in its very final form and fully proofread (mostly I added a word here and there to shore up the romantic element, as I was sort of out of it when I wrote it and that’s a very subtle element that got lost. I also — think — I removed the impression of a double ending. I was surprised my betas didn’t get that it was intended, so I tried to make that clearer. Paul, aka Drak will be excerpting the book in my conference on Facebook as well as in Baen’s bar and also other conferences at Baen’s bar until its release date in July) has gone to Baen. You don’t control a revolution. Not even if you started it. In A Few Good Men, I have them sort of in control of the very early phases, but even then there are contretemps as other people take the bit between their teeth. And in the end it’s clear that they’re no in control, just trying to keep what’s important to them.
So revolutionary times have this quality of a whirlwind, where things happen, you deal with them, and sometimes you’re not even sure why or who caused it, and the TV reports are more often than not erroneous or useless.
All this to say that in retrospect, I have absolutely no clue what school year this was, nor what was going on. I THINK I was 11 or 12, and that it was somewhere around fifth or sixth grade. And I don’t know if this was the teachers’ idea or if some revolutionary junta of older students took over the school and did this stuff.
What I know is that periodically we got to the school and were told we had no classes that day and that we were going to: run a marathon (that was fun. I was in pumps); paint a mural; demonstrate against whatever.
Earth day was relatively innocuous as they had us paint a mural on the outside wall of the school. Crappy art, of course — the idea that untutored children do the best art is one of those noble savage things I just don’t get. It’s demonstrably not true — but we were out in the open, and once I ascertained I wasn’t being graded, I just kind of stood where the supervisors (a lot of long haired guys and unwashed girls) couldn’t see me and used the day very profitably to daydream.
After that Earth day got more militant, and the Gospel of the Wronged Earth started taking over everything. It was sometime in the late seventies that I realized the people who used to talk of going to the stars were now saying we couldn’t leave until we had found out how to “take care” of the Earth.
And it was several years before I realized the sheer unabashed delusion and hubris in that sentiment.
Fortunately in between there was Heinlein who not only encouraged humans, heartily, to go out beyond the last spinning planet, and gave the reasons why (having all our eggs in one basket was dangerous) but gave me the single most liberating concept of all: that I shouldn’t feel guilty for being human or think humans were wrecking the planet. Beavers change their environment to suit them, too, and we don’t say “let’s kill all beavers” because of that. So why should we want humans to go extinct? I’m a human and I’m loyal to humans. If humans change their environment to suit them, it will suit me. Yay team human.
I don’t remember the exact quote, but I remember it was so heretical it rocked my world, and started me into reexamining all the near-shamanistic devotion to “fixing” or “healing” the Earth, which somehow always amounts to “let’s eliminate humans.”
I knew the concept of fixing a place by staying in it was loopy, anyway, even at a young age, because I’d studied the discoveries. Europe, and its petty quarrels and its old feuds wouldn’t have been fixed — ever — by staying there. Sometimes you have to leave to get a better perspective.
Some of this idea of “we have to fix the Earth” came with the idea that aliens out there were more “evolved” than us and would judge us when we got there. This idea has no basis in reality and makes no sense whatsoever, since aliens are by definition alien (talk about your true multi-culti.) If they exist, their values are by definition NOT our values. Evolved in what direction? Do they eat their babies with self-guided forks or what?
Again there was Heinlein. And I started noticing cracks in the narrative and things that were just completely insane. Mostly how this “eco” movement seemed to gravitate to human hatred and voluntary self- extinction.
Then I started learning more about biology, partly as research for Darkship Thieves. Boy. Did you know that every species is a colonist species. Every species that has arisen on Earth seeks not only to colonize new territory, but to change it to its preference, all the way from the simplest lichen to us. So that whole thing about us being uniquely bad? Yeah, the only species that neither colonize nor conform their environment to themselves are… extinct.
And the more I learned the more this Earth Day thing seemed not just like a cult, but like a reversal to paleolithic anthropomorphication and worship of the world and the environment.
Like, at the Natural History Museum, of all things, they were playing — in the lobby — a cartoon telling kids that the Earth is their mother (a DAMN abusive one, if you ask me) and that before they go to other planets they must appease Mommy Earth and not “hurt” her. At the zoo, they had a mirror and “Take a look at the only animal capable of driving others to extinction” (this is so far from true it’s laughable, and only religion could cause a biologist to suspend thought long enough to believe this unremitting cr*p.)
Look, religion is religion, and one man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh. (And my own religion is often my own belly laugh.) Another thing Heinlein taught me. And I don’t run down other people’s religion, unless they try to force me to live by it.
All this Earth Worship crap was started by a man named Einhorn who was so devoted he composted the girlfriend he killed, but again, just because a crazy man starts a religion, it doesn’t mean it won’t bring comfort and improvement to other humans.
They want to worship the Earth, go for it. They want to think they’re the children of rock and dirt? Go for it.
Just don’t try to impose it on us, and don’t try to drive us to extinction to appease your murderous goddess.
You might be a child of the Earth. I’m better than that.
I will not feel guilty. I will not go extinct. I will not turn my lights off for an hour, but I’ll celebrate human achievement hour by turning on EVERY light in the house including the ones in the closet. Because bringing light out of darkness is something we humans did and it’s pretty awesome. I will NOT go quietly into that good night.
I will work every day to make sure my grandchildren or my great grandchildren go to the stars. Because we shouldn’t have all our eggs in one basket.
You stay on the Earth and beat your chest about changing anything. Have a happy Earth day.
WE, the children of Heinlein, are going to the stars. And we’re taking cats with us.
Happy Human Diaspora Day, and don’t forget to celebrate Human Achievement Hour.