Editor’s Note: We recently caught up with our old friend Arbor Day, who was sitting at a Greyhound bus station in Lincoln, Nebraska, drinking something out of a paper bag. At first, we weren’t sure it was him. He looked like a Christmas tree dragged to the curb. But when we offered to buy him lunch (mulch and a ham sandwich), he brightened considerably. Here is what he had to say:
Earth Day. Oh? Is today Earth Day? Whaddaya know. Ask me if I care. Who wants millions of celebrities fawning over you? “Oh Earth Day, I just LOVE what you’ve done for the planet!” Gimme a break. Earth Day is the perfect day if you want to go shopping at Whole Foods for a $20 nectarine from some local farm run by a goat. Then you call everyone up, they drive over in their Teslas, they all nibble tangerine slices and sip water that some coal-burning freighter dragged all the way from Fiji, and then they talk about where their kids are applying to college.
At this point, he took a long drink of whatever he had in the bag. A squirrel peeped out of his beard and darted back in. Arbor Day continued:
Earth Day once called to say, “Isn’t it cool we were practically born on the same day, but I’m so much younger, and I’m friends with Natalie Portman and Leonardo, and you’re friends with, like, a woodchuck?” I hung up on him.
Tell you the truth, I’m glad I’m not Earth Day. When I was born ... You know the story, right? It’s 1854. J. Sterling Morton moves from Detroit to Nebraska and can’t believe there aren’t any trees there. What did he expect? It’s Nebraska! Anyway, he plants some and then gets the big idea: Let’s get EVERYONE to plant some. So he gets the state to declare April 10, 1872, “Arbor Day” and gives prizes to the counties that plant the most trees. They say a million got plastered ... er ... planted that day.
And pretty soon, everyone starts hearing about me, and kids make banners and march in parades all about ME. And in 1970, no less a statesman than Richard M. Nixon proclaims that the last Friday in April is MY day.
That’s right. Tricky Dick and me, like this. He twined two branches together.
Yeah, well, that same year, some senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Somebody, gets the idea for Earth Day. And guess what? He’s going to hold it on Sterling Morton’s birthday. You know how that feels? A guy up and declares your founder’s sacred birthday is now some vegan-shmegan honk-if-you-like-tie-dyed-tofu holiday?
And what do you know? Twenty million people pour out to celebrate this Earth thing and suddenly it’s like, “Arbor who?”
There was a time I could go anywhere and people would tip their hats and say: “Hey, Arbor Day! Thanks for the shade!” Now it’s “Earth Day Special” and “Earth Day Savings” and “Earth Day Dow Chemical-General Motors-Smelters-R-Us But We Put a Sad Polar Bear Video on YouTube So We Care Day”! And everyone gives out free tote bags so you can carry around your halo without wasting any plastic.
The squirrel darted out from his beard again and nestled into his lap.
I’m really happier out of the public glare. But I guess if you pushed me, I’d be willing to trade Squirrely here for Natalie Portman.
Got any more of that mulch?