Earth Day 2010 – What We Do When We Spend Green

Damn, Earth Day snuck up on me this year. I always think it is later in the month, probably because I just kind of wish it would GO AWAY.

It is time for Hanna’s annual Earth Day Rant. Examining how silly I think our current environmental movement is. And my rant for this year is misplaced objectives that the focus on “saving the planet” creates.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so let me get this conversation started with a very precise 1,000 words:


Global warming did not do this. Buying “green” products will not fix this. And I highly doubt this child or her mother and father cares who Al Gore is.

Now that I have your attention, let me share a few statistics with you:


  • 3.575 million people die each year from water-related disease (not from chemical runoff – this is mainly feces borne diseases).
  • 84% of water-related deaths are in children ages 0 — 14.
  • Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease.
  • 884 million people, lack access to safe water supplies, approximately one in eight people.
  • An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the typical person living in a developing country slum uses in a whole day.


  • Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes–one child every five seconds.
  • Poor nutrition and calorie deficiencies cause nearly one in three people to die prematurely or have disabilities, according to the World Health Organization.
  • In 2006, about 9.7 million children died before they reached their fifth birthday. Almost all of these deaths occurred in developing countries, 4/5 of them in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the two regions that also suffer from the highest rates of hunger and malnutrition.


  • Based on enrollment data, about 72 million children of primary school age in the developing world were not in school in 2005; 57 per cent of them were girls. And these are regarded as optimistic numbers.
  • Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their own names.

What it would take to fix it

  • We spend 450 billion dollars in one year on giving stuff at Christmas. It would only take 10 billion dollars to provide clean water to the world forever.
  • Less than one percent of what the world spent every year on weapons is needed to put every child into school. (see the schooling source above)
  • An estimated 104 billion dollars will be spent by consumers in 2008 on green products & services. Source: Forbes Oct 2008 – How many mouths do you think that would feed?

While we work so hard to “save the environment” (which doesn’t need saving, as I pointed out last year, it’s our own asses that need saving), people are dying. For god sakes people, stop shopping! Put down the credit cards, pull out a heart. This year, don’t buy a tree, don’t buy a fuel efficient car, don’t buy lattes in recycled cups. Buy a human life instead. Donate what you would have spent on saving the earth to saving its people.

And you know what, a funny thing happens. When we stop buying crap – when we stop shopping, we stop using resources, which reduces our “carbon” footprint and then we accomplish the point of Earth Day anyway.  Â (not to mention when death rates go down (especially children), birth rates do too which helps to slow the overall world population.)

Here are the charities I donate or give to every month. Please consider adding one of them into your “green” budget.

29 thoughts on “Earth Day 2010 – What We Do When We Spend Green
  1. Nanci on

    Hannah, I love your blog, so I hope you don’t take this as flaming,but while I agree with you that’s it’s horrible that all these children are dying, I see a relatively simple solution: BIRTH CONTROL! None of these charities ever mention that subject, to offer it or to give any education related to that. All I know is, if I had children who were starving to death, I would certainly welcome a way to not have another one! Until that happens, I can’t see the situation getting better in the near future…


    Hanna Reply:

    Exactly how does one get birth control if one can’t get food, water and basic medical care? Their children die from diarrhea. A highly treatable disease that here in the US is not even a major concern for mothers. Where does one get the pill when they don’t have the medical facilities to stop diarrhea?

    And saying no to sex? Women’s rights in these areas are still in the dark ages. Saying no to your husband is literally a death sentence.

    I agree, birth control is key. But studies have shown that birth control can only be effectively introduced to an area when basic needs are met. Otherwise, the population over compensates for high infant mortality with high birth rates.


    nanci Reply:

    You bring up good points, and you’re right,a few of the organizations DO try to educate in birth control, but many more are Catholic based, and they would never think about mentioning anything like that, which is sad. And, as you brought up, the AIDS epidemic is so bad that it makes the issue of sex education even more important! (BTW, I never said that women in those countries can “just say no”; I, too, realize that is taboo in many areas.) I still feel that it will be an ecscalating and neverending battle without B.C. We will NEVER have enough funding to provide basic health care to everyone if that is not addresswd. They still make saltpeter, don’t they?…


    Patricia Reply:

    Sorry, Nanci, there are no quick fixes.
    Saltpeter doesn’t work, never did. If it had all those Salami eating gents would not have produced progeny. It is still used some places for the preservation of meats, but that it cut down on the libido of little boys or grown men was and is a myth.

    nanci Reply:

    …Sorry,…I was sort of being facetious…

    Sarina Reply:

    This is a wake up call, Hanna. We know how to live green, we know that green living( as well as buying green products in high price) will reduce carbon foot print. But what the use of this when people are crying for basic needs? I went through some studies after watching this photograph. It’s a reality that educated people are earning money and going for birth control. But those who are living under poverty line can’t really afford this.


    Hanna Reply:

    And, as a later note, there are groups that do provide sex education in these parts of the world (esp since pregnancy is the least of the problem. AIDS is a far greater concern with lack of sex ed). Donating to these groups is 100X better than spending your money on a “green” gadget. If that is how you feel you can help developing nations, I fully encourage you to donate to these groups.


  2. Mary on

    Good work! Thank you for putting “Earth Day” into perspective.


  3. Wow! very informative. I was just searching for other garden blogs and ran across this one. Bookmarking for sure! keep up the great work!

    On a lighter note if anyone is interested in Strawbale gardening give my blog a visit!


  4. Thank you for this article. Earth Day has become so hyped and commercialized that I just decided to pretend like it didn’t exist and chose not to blog on that day.

    I think you are right on.


  5. I really liked your post and share the same feelings you do.
    Especially after hearing the ads “buy this ______ for Earth Day”. It’s just goofy because the things they are advertising have nothing to do with anything besides the advertisers’ bottom line. Great job


  6. Oh how I look forward to your annual Earth Day rants. I think this is my third one. I am never disappointed.


  7. I’m grateful for your post. I don’t think enough American’s understand the full magnitude behind the need to use those biodegradable cups. They just take their cloth grocery bag to the store at pat themselves on the back for “doing something” to “help” the environment. I, myself, want to puke when I see how many major brands out there are now touting their “green” products – which are merely the same products they’ve been peddling for years just with the word “green” on the label….and how many Americans fall for it and think they’re part of some big movement. Great post!


    smb12321 Reply:

    My wife swears she’s boycotting the next org spending millions declaring itself green. At an NPR gathering it was like a green convention with folks trying to outdo one another with their latest “green” purchase or habit. (“We limit our toilet paper”)

    The best advice is trading latte green cups for a child. A friend in Doctors Without Borders said villagers in Ghana begged for a…tractor! Not cash, food, or schools. Just a damn tractor would transform the landscape incredibly.

    Anerican Idol pays back would help much more by donating tractors than photo glam shots of “stars” playing soccer.


  8. Kari on

    Fantastic post…..I absolutely loved it. Thanks for the reminder to keep my priorities in check.


  9. Jennifer on

    I think the idea of Earthday is lovely- it is the practice of Earthday that doesn’t seem to work. Whatever your opinion is on the world needing saving or not, the point of over-consumption is well made- driving even an inefficient car is environmentally sounder that buying a new car. having lived in Madagascar, I have seen both real poverty and creative re-use of commodities available- I don’t throw away things so easily now just because they aren’t as shiny as before, and I re-purpose whenever possible- as witnessed by the mish-mash of various sticks, poles, pipes etc currently being used as plant supports in my garden.


  10. I have always thought Heifer International to be a good charity, especially for those with an affinity to gardening or farming. They provide poor villagers with livestock (or fruit trees) in the teach a man to fish model. So that they not only get one meal, but possibly a lifetime worth.


  11. Oh, and on the green movement, let us not forget.

    Banning DDT was based on dubious science and has resulted in millions of deaths from malaria.

    Banning or resisting genetic engineered crops is resisting the single greatest hope for feeding all of the world’s people. Already things like golden rice (rice engineered to contain beta carotene) have improved millions of lives.


  12. Katherine Isham on

    I see where you’re coming from here, and there’s certainly a persuasive argument that people need to be protected first. But one thing to remember is that humanity does not exist in a vacuum, and the way we are treating the environment is hurting those who are impoverished the most. For example, most scientists believe global warming will cause huge food shortages, especially in arid regions like Africa( ); it is believed the the BP Oil spill will cost 12,000 jobs in Louisiana alone–12,000 people who stand a very real chance of being homeless and hungry. ( ) Meanwhile, workers in China who are exposed to toxic chemicals are finding themselves ill and unable to work. ( )

    I don’t ask people to care about the environment because of polar bears and tigers. I ask people to care about the environment because we are bleeding ourselves, and *especially* impoverished people, every time we do thoughtless things to the ecosystem which we depend on to survive in.

    When googling for gardening blogs I stumbled upon yours and I was really excited to read such a humorous and interesting blog about gardening, and your words about your kitty really touched me. So I was a little disappointed to find out that a gardener–a group of people I feel have a more-than-usual vested interest in the environment–was so dismissive of the environmental movement. I hope you’ll consider giving it a second look, just because of the context of how it affects humanity, especially poor, desperate people, who are the most likely to come into contact with noxious pollution or deal with global-warming caused famine.


    Hanna Reply:

    Ahh… And I am a little disappointed that you did not read the post to the bottom. As you would see that my gripe is more with consumption under the guise of “being green” rather than enviromentalism itself.

    Consumption, green or otherwise, is what is killing us and other inhabitants of this planet.


  13. Katherine Isham on

    Ah, looking at it again, I do see we more or less agree. ¬.¬;;

    OKAY I ADMIT IT I KIND OF SKIMMED IT. I read all of the first two paragraphs, skipped most of the statistics (“oh hey, I’ve read all this anyway”) and then sort of saw “While we work so hard to “save the environment” (which doesn’t need saving)”–my brain sort of went into “not another person who thinks HEY LETS DUMP TOXIC CHEMICALS IT’S COOL GUYS EARTH CAN TAKE IT” mode. >.:-/

    So um, yeah… in conclusion, your blog rocks. Keep up the good work, and sorry I made an ass of myself. -.-;


    Hanna Reply:

    It’s all cool. 🙂 Hope to see you around in the future.


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