The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

Keeping yourself earthed: Expats and Earth Day

We should do a post on Earth Day. It fits in with the celebration theme we have for this month, in honor of The Displaced Nation’s first birthday

The brainchild of Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. senator from Wisconsin, Earth Day was established in 1970 — a year that also gifted world culture with bell-bottom trousers and Jon Pertwee’s itineration as the third Dr Who — as a day to engage the public about air and water pollution. From these beginnings it has grown into a day observed by groups and people throughout the world to celebrate the environment and raise awareness of the dangers our planet faces. This Sunday is Earth Day’s 42nd anniversary. The event will be marked with an amusingly inventive doodle on the google homepage and by NBC turning its normally multi-colored peacock logo green. Hallmark will once again fail to capitalize on the day as perhaps they might wish to. This will lead to high-level discussions in the Hallmark marketing department.

it seems to be just the sort of thing that our expat readership would think is a good cause

The vast majority of people agree that not f***ing up the environment is a good idea. Admittedly there may be disagreement over the means by which you do that, and the extent of the problem, but in principle most people would seem to think of Earth Day as  a fairly decent, mostly harmless idea.

…in fact, its just the sort of thing that expats are into. You see, I think expats are more concerned about the environment.

With absolutely no studies to back up the assertion, it was suggested here to me, in the corner of the Internet we call The Displaced Nation, that Earth Day would be a good topic for me to consider writing a post about as expats, so we thought to ourselves, are possibly more attuned to the environment that those mundane muggles known as non-expats.

Theyve just traveled more widely, experienced a bit more.

So I find myself sitting down ready to write this piece. My “notes” if we can call them that, consists of a half-baked observation written on a torn piece of notepaper about all the gas-guzzling trucks people in my current locale (California) seem to love driving. It eloquently reads, “ubiquity of big trucks.”

Added to this is a later notation, a parenthetical thought, where I write that the sights of these unnecessary trucks make me nauseous.

So that’s all I’ve got as I try and knock out this post, but I don’t get far as it seems that this idea that we’re, as I assume if you’re reading this blog you’re an expat, somehow better from my truck-driving neighbors is complete and utter tosh.

Theyre more in tune with whats going on

Now I admit that not all expats are equal, and what I am going to write about doesn’t apply to migrant workers who have left a home country that is undeveloped in a search of a better pay in a more developed country. Neither do I include those individuals who are living in foreign climes doing environmental work. No, what I am concerned about is the self-satisfied expat. You know the type — the sort that decides to start a blog about their experiences because their observations are just so damn important that they need to be read by others. In other words, the likes of me, and, most probably, the likes of you.

and theyre probably better informed.

I was extremely willing to go along with the idea that my expat status confers some sort of wisdom on me. Let’s face it, it’s an intoxicating thought, the idea that living in a different culture from your own automatically transforms you for the better. I guess I must half believe it as I make a point of mentioning on my C.V. that I have lived on three continents, as if that makes me better than a candidate who has only lived on one continent.

Now I do think that there’s a lot to be gained from moving abroad, from leaving your comfort zone, but there should also be an awareness that it is a position of privilege, a privilege conferred — at least on me, I should stop talking on your behalf — by living in the jet age, by ignoring that the life I have chosen, a life that I at times get smug about by being an expat blogger (which really is the smuggest of all expat types) leaves on the world a far greater carbon footprint than my neighbor’s life driving his gas-guzzling truck. And yet I’m the one to feel disdain for him and his environmental choices.

Happy Earth Day.

2 responses to “Keeping yourself earthed: Expats and Earth Day

  1. Pingback: Happy Earth Day 2012 – go solar | Dan's Solar1

  2. expatlogue April 21, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Thought-provoking, and yes, us smug expats do need to put a lid on it sometimes. But there’s a good chance your gas-guzzling truck-driving friend also jets off on holiday to some perpetually air-conditioned, all-you-can-eat resort that’s lit to be visible from space. That’s gotta leave a big, purely recreational, carbon footprint!

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