The Goldberg Variations: Save the Planet, OMG!


When my daughter told me she had joined a club at school called “Silent Earth,” I felt a moment of pure maternal panic. I couldn’t help feeling that Silent Earth sounded like a group of excessively emo girls dressed completely in black, wearing goth eyeliner and cutting themselves. I could easily picture this group holding Wiccan worship meetings in a dark corner of the school cafeteria. I braced myself for a long and serious talk about teen angst.

My daughter is a gentle and kind-hearted girl, but when I voiced these concerns she rolled her eyes with enough force to detach both retinas; I correctly interpreted this as a positive sign. If you’re unfamiliar with high school-age females, let me enlighten you: eye rolling is an extremely healthy outlet for teenage girls. It means that the girl in question feels comfortable enough to express her innermost feelings. Also, she finds you utterly ridiculous.

My daughter quickly informed me that Silent Earth was the name of her school’s environmental awareness club. It is a collection of high minded students working together to protect the planet, to encourage recycling and, incidentally, to gain admittance to prestigious colleges.

These are all laudable goals, but I couldn’t help asking why the club burdened themselves with such a depressing name.  My question was answered with a shrug – that universal, all-purpose teenage gesture. Depending on the conversation it can mean:  “I don’t know,” “I don’t care,” or “get a life.” It almost always means “please get out of my room.”

At my daughter’s school, Silent Earth has a reputation for attracting kids who are not merely padding their resumes for college admittance. Its members tend to be earnest and well-meaning young people who are genuinely committed to environmental issues. The club members encourage other students to ride the school bus, they promote locally grown produce, and they teach elementary school kids to be more eco-friendly. They have won awards from local government for the impact they’ve had in helping the environment. But I can’t help feeling that they would attract more members if the name was less of a buzzkill.

My daughter actually agrees that the club should be called something a little less grim, but at the same time she wouldn’t necessarily prefer something that sounded too upbeat. Recently we had dinner with friends and found out that their son was a member of his school’s environmental club, an organization with the far perkier title of “POP” (an acronym for preserve our planet). My daughter accepted this news with mild interest, since she had no idea this young man was concerned about the environment. But when I mentioned liking his club’s name, she could barely hide her distaste. She explained to me, at great length, that no one at her school would ever join a club with an oppressively cheerful name like POP. “Way too Disney,” she said, with a quick but dismissive roll of her eyes.

The Earth may be silent but teenage girls, happily, are not.

Editor’s Note: Susan Goldberg is a slightly lapsed treehugger. Although known to overuse paper products, she has the best of intentions – and a really small SUV. Catch her column, The Goldberg Variations, each week here at EcoSalon.

Image: burgundavia