What Earth Day Means to Me
by DON BOUDREAUX on APRIL 22, 2009 [EDIT
My son, Thomas (a sixth grader), has a homework assignment
today: write an essay entitled “What Earth Day Means to Me.” I will help
him out with my own essay.
Earth Day, to me, means an opportunity to express thanks for
all the ways that capitalism makes our lives and environment cleaner and
I’m thankful for the automobile, which has cleaned our
streets and highways of animal feces, which is both foul and filthy itself, and
that attracts flies that spread it into our homes and workplaces.
I’m thankful for the automobile also because it allows us to
travel in a cleaner environment than we had when we traveled on horseback or in
buggies. Modern automobiles cool or heat the air immediately surrounding
their passengers, making these passengers comfortable and, in summer, less
sweaty and stinky.
I’m thankful for air-conditioning that keeps our interior
environments not only comfortable but more healthy, as it allows us to better
keep insects out of our homes, shops, factories, and offices — and also, in
humid places, to dramatically reduce the growth of mold and mildew in our
I’m thankful for indoor plumbing. (The anti-polluting
properties here are too obvious to spell out. Ditto for disposable
diapers — yet another product for which I’m most grateful.)
I’m thankful for the inexpensive soaps, shampoos,
toothpastes, dental floss, toilet tissue, and plastic bandages and other
first-aid items that make it possible for us to de-pollute our persons
I’m thankful for electronic appliances, such as those that
(along with modern detergents – for which I’m also thankful) allow us to clean
our used clothing and dirty dishes — clean these more deeply and more
thoroughly than was possible in the past without spending multiples of the time
on such tasks that we spend on these tasks today. These appliances enable
us to recycle our clothing and our dishes for many reuses.
I’m thankful for electricity for making these appliances
possible – and for enabling us to light our home without dirty candles, and for
enabling us to heat our homes without coal, wood, peat, or other filthy
I’m thankful for plastics, which very effectively and at
very low costs allow us to keep bacteria confined. A plastic storage bag,
for example, keeps food bacteria confined to the interior of the bag.
I’m thankful for refrigeration for retarding the growth of
bacteria and, hence, keeping our foods cleaner and healthier.
I’m thankful for chemical fertilizers that increase the
productivity of the earth’s soil, and thereby helps to prevent malnutrition —
which, in turn, better enables each of our bodies to succeed at fighting off
diseases that are more likely to sicken, or even kill, malnourished persons.
I’m thankful for factories (and the fuels that power them)
that make possible things such as modern textiles — modern textiles that enable
even poor people in market societies to own many changes of clean clothing.
I’m thankful for modern insecticides and cleansers that help
to protect us from bugs and bacteria that would otherwise pollute our
I am, in short, thankful for private-property markets that
are the main driving force behind these (and many other) anti-pollutants — a
force so powerful that we today enjoy the incredible luxury of being able to
worry, should we so choose, about very distant and very speculative forms of
environmental problems such as species loss and global warming.