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Originally published Thursday, June 19, 2008 at 12:00 AM


Guest columnist

We need an annual reprieve from the Daily Doom Report

Now that every day is Earth Day, we need a new kind of holiday. We need an annual break from bad environmental news. The year-round glumfest about...

Newhouse News Service

Now that every day is Earth Day, we need a new kind of holiday. We need an annual break from bad environmental news.

The year-round glumfest about drowning polar bears, dying honeybees and the general futility of it all is raising consciousness but crushing spirits (or at least mine). We need a day of rest — a time to pretend, as we did in the 1990s, that the party could last forever.

The other 364 days we can stick to the new normal, flogging ourselves about carbon and fretting about an uncertain future.

Lately, each week brings a fresh variation on the theme of "we're doomed." The stories come in three varieties. First, we're destroying the environment with our old bad habits, like building golf courses in the desert.

Second, we're making things worse with our new good habits, like embracing corn-based ethanol, which is contributing to a global food crisis and (wait, there's more!) deforestation.

Third, we're too late. We can sell our cars and walk on our knees to work, but the oceans will continue to rise. People in China and India, seeking a higher standard of living, will cancel out our feeble attempts to consume less. The furry little cubs will sink beneath the surface of the sea, unable to overcome forces set in motion a century ago.

It's a miracle we're able to function at all, weighed down by the Daily Doom Report.

"Dude, where's my iceberg?" the news headline blares, prompting a familiar mix of irritation and despair.

"Do you have time to save a polar bear today?" the Greenpeace solicitors ask, so chipper that you want to punch them.

I think you see what I'm getting at here.

We need a break.

The new holiday could be a special national reprieve. Everyone would agree to give it a rest for 24 hours. No pestering from environmental groups. No grim stories about five-legged frogs or collapsing salmon runs. No one would be allowed to bring up peak oil, water shortages, dead zones or the chemicals in your favorite shampoo.

Best of all, everyone would be pardoned from feeling anxious about their big clomping carbon footprints. Just for a day, we could all drive our cars for as many miles as we can afford, and no one would open their piehole about taking the bus.

The idea of an environmental holiday may not be popular with some readers. They will write and say it's people like you who ruin the environment by being flippant and thoughtless. To them I apologize in advance, as part of a personal initiative to conserve energy by avoiding conflict.

But I'd also add this. Look, you won. The world now realizes that you are right. You were right back in the 1970s, when environmentalism was a lifestyle choice rather than a global necessity.

You are right that it will take a worldwide, nonstop effort to limit the damage.

This is precisely why we now need an annual day of rest. Just one day.

We'd go to the history museum and gaze fondly at the Ford F-150, next to the dinosaurs. We'd reminisce about old road trips to Vegas, fast food in Styrofoam containers and Costco multipacks of batteries.

Then we'd turn on all the lights and crank the A/C and heat simultaneously. And just for a while it would be morning in America, when green was just a color and everything was free.

Susan A. Nielsen is an associate editor at The Oregonian of Portland. She can be contacted at

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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