It’s here: Earth Day, when we sacrifice an entire day paying possibly injurious tribute to an environment mostly ignored the other 360+. But isn’t it nice of us? Isn’t it good to hope the day of reverence might inspire thoughtful respect for the planet on a more than occasional/annual basis? On the other hand, if we look at how we humans treat each other 24/365, there’s not a lot of space for optimism. A great many act in ways appearing not at all nice or considerate, and they seem to do so with a willful vengeance from the moment they wake until the peepers shut for the night. (God alone knows what they’re dreaming, which I pray is kept strictly secret.)

Along the North Shore, the arrival of Earth Day is a bit like the blessed arrival of spring, only without the blessed part and a lot of mud. I confess and admit the earth is my most favorite place to stand, but for weeks and weeks and weeks doing so requires rubber-bottom boots and a lot of patience before the first little shoots of green burst brightly on the trees in time for the tourists to reappear like early locusts roaring up from the south with $22,000 in gear to take $22.00 worth of fish back to Iowa. And they wonder why we snicker. “Nice bass boat and trailer there, fella, and a couple of decent walleyes, too.”

If you can’t tell, Earth Day or not to inspire me, I’m feeling a bit grumpy and pessimistic. Are you like me and get hung up on small annoyances? Every morning I wonder what imbeciles had the good idea to make football-shaped pills. Do they live on a planet Earth where human fingers are eternally nimble and flat surfaces perfectly level? What’s wrong with using the shape of an aspirin, nice and flat on two sides? I bet those same nut bars have something to do with sticking windshield wipers down in a crevice where all the gunk and glop of creation turns them into frozen wiper-sicles. I’ve had vehicles where the wipers operate from above. They worked fine. What’s wrong with that? It ruins the smooth stylish look, you say. I might give a diddle about style in a fashion accessory. In a vehicle, put function first, then slap on some pretty if you must.

So here it is, Earth Day, and I’m wondering why on Earth we ever in the world helped the Saudis when Saddam was the supposed bad boy of the Middle East. “Put your inventory and the lives of your military at risk to rescue us and the Kuwaitis, but by the way your women can’t drive or chaplains wear crosses or six-point stars because we’re so sensitive and it would offend us.” We should have said, well, you’re on your own then. Save your own asses. We’ll deal with whoever wins. It’s not as if that part of the world and its beliefs are friendly to our Western freedoms and democracy, other than to use our openness in their favor. Mainstream Saudi beliefs fuel massive spending to spread their form of repression and social control. They have the same kit and caboodles as Iran, which at least is honest about it and says, “Screw the world and the earth. We need nukes for peaceful purposes.” Under their religious definition, the destruction of Israel is justified and part of the “path to peace.” If we think of threats to the planet and people this Earth Day, we might want to keep in mind those nations that are minaret versions of North Korea. There’s a huge risk to the planet when either greed or ideology force actions. It is a fool’s game to look for moderates in a field where none are to be found, and all that is to be found is sorting degrees of radicalism.

A fine part of Earth Day is the reminder that we are Earth’s voices to speak in its defense and for its protection. That is an uplifting idea—beautiful, even, to raise our voices on behalf of the good planet Earth.

Some of us carry this a bit far by going from speaking on behalf to speaking for the earth as pipsqueak in loco parentis. Doing that can bring more harm than good. Let’s take two. Does Earth shoot lightning bolts at abortionists or pelt married gays with hail? This happens no more than dung storms fall on crooks or tornados whip abusive straight mates. It’s fine if you don’t like something, but that doesn’t mean the Universe is auto on your side. Don’t like abortion? Well, you’re not required to have one. Disapprove of gay marriage? Then don’t marry a gay. You’re free to suffer or enjoy the route you’re on. Is it so difficult to not speak for the world and all that’s moral as if it was your property when it is not?

The social climate we see each Earth Day is as important to the well-being of the planet as are the environmental concerns of air and water. Free people might make mistakes: marry wrong, sex foolishly, or invest unwisely. This cannot be prevented by spewing verses of moral law any more than a two-step around a roaring bonfire will change the weather. On the social side of Earth Day, I see the things we can do and those we cannot. We cannot stop floods. We can study flooding causes and patterns. We can discourage building on flood plains. Things we can do and things we cannot.

Pius Earth Savers or moralizing Soul Saviors raise the call of their cause, but when politics, religion, God, or greed are first in line, it is Planet and People usually made to suffer. The book of great causes has been thrown at us for thousands of years, and to what end? Has it changed us? Are things any different than they’ve ever been? With Earth and with humans, it is the same. There is what we can do and what we cannot. There are those things that are our business and those that are not. I suppose it was always so simple we were bound to screw it up.