Nearly 2,000 students traveled by foot, car and packed-to-the-brim buses this past Friday to the Porter Meadow to visibly express their enthusiasm for the “4/20” tradition that UC Santa Cruz is famous for. Some lit up at 4:00 p.m. to the cries of “Revolution,” while others just enjoyed their stoned status in the smoky space.

Two days later on Earth Day, a few hundred students ventured in and out of College Eight for inspirational speakers, such as Ocean Robbins, and informational tables on making UCSC–and society in general–greener.

While Earth Day is no 4/20 (though both, you can say, celebrate the Earth), the contrasting lack of participants at the College Eight festivities is no anomaly to the world of activism. It’s easy to bring students together over weed, naked runs or free food — known to mobilize even the most apathetic of the student population — but not so easy to work up the motivation to come together over a common cause.

But what is a “common cause?” The natural inclination for many wide-eyed — and perhaps blurry-eyed — optimists would be to ask, “If so many students can come together for an event like 4/20, why not for Earth Day or for Darfur?”

Since its founding, 4/20 has been more an act of entertainment than a defiant way to make change — which takes the energy many would prefer not to exert, at least not in public.

Rumor has it that 4/20 was introduced by San Rafael High School students as a time to meet up and light up in 1971 — not too far away from when Earth Day was first introduced by Senator John McCornell at a UNESCO Conference on the Environment in 1969.

Students coming together for an event like 4/20 is not “revolutionary;” in fact, it’s not too vastly different from 50,000 people gathering together for a popular concert at the Shoreline Amphitheatre.

Yet Earth Day events in themselves do not harness this title. Even when students do come together for protests or events, it takes a greater consciousness of these causes — and action spurred by that conscious — in order for them to be worthwhile.

Does going to an Earth Day festival matter if an individual still emits three tons of carbon dioxide per year — the average amount as of 2003?

Hopefully, though, one can still go to an Earth Day festival not only to have fun, but to take away knowledge as a group that one can make an individual difference—whether that involves learning about transportation alternatives in Santa Cruz or one’s large ecological footprint. Then there will be proof that there are things that matter more than the celebration.