An idealist at heart, my Earth Day wish is for all of us to commit to achieving an environmentally sustainable, socially just, spiritually fulfilling way of living and being on our planet. I realize this sounds like a tall order. Some might call it naive. But if we put down our cynicism for a moment and consider how many of us want the same thing, we can see there is enormous potential in our collective desire for a better world.Owen Ullman at USA Today:
Moving from dream into action can be difficult. We are social creatures. What those in our social circles do, what our society values, and what we find available to us, strongly shapes our individual behaviors and choices. And we currently live in a society that values conspicuous consumption over doing what is best for people and the planet.
But there have always been visionaries, willing to step outside the status quo to live and tell different stories about how to be in the world. And there have always been those who bravely join them. Through them, we have already come far.
Tuesday, as we observe another Earth Day, there is broad public support for cleaner air and water, and as a nation we have taken dramatic steps to improve the environment.More below the fold.
The coming challenge is what to do about climate change, which a nearly unanimous collection of scientists says is real and potentially calamitous if we don't act now to reduce greenhouse gases.
A nice piece over at The New York Times:
There are 600,000 trees growing along the streets of this city.John Roach at National Geographic gives us the history of Earth Day:
This is the story of one that died and was born again.
Earth Day began in 1970, when 20 million people across the United States—that's one in ten—rallied for increased protection of the environment.David Foster at The Huffington Post:
"It was really an eye-opening experience for me," Gina McCarthy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator, who was a self-described self-centered teenager during the first Earth Day rallies, told National Geographic. (See pictures: "The First Earth Day—Bell-Bottoms and Gas Masks.")
"Not only were people trying to influence decisions on the Vietnam War," she recalled, "but they were beginning to really focus attention on issues like air pollution, the contamination they were seeing in the land, and the need for federal action."
Together 20 million people from all over the country gathered to protest pollution. The idea for Earth Day originated with Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, who was thinking about how he could harness the energy of the anti-war movement and apply it to another growing problem -- cleaning up the environment. He said, "If we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the student anti-war energy into the environmental cause, we could generate a demonstration that would force the issue onto the national political agenda."A very important piece by Peter Bell and Brian McGill at National Journal:
Not surprisingly, it's a sentiment that rings as true today as when Senator Nelson spoke those words 45 years ago. Today, Earth Day is an opportunity to educate and talk with one another about the impact of our actions and to engage communities around possible solutions. It's also a time to draw connections between environmental issues and other social problems that plague our nations.
Take the issues of climate change and infrastructure, for instance. Despite the growing concern of Americans from all walks of life about the strength and safety of infrastructure in the face of more extreme weather -- such as transportation, pipes, electrical lines, communication systems, and public buildings like our schools and libraries -- Congress has failed to take meaningful action even when it could create jobs and improve public safety.
For years, mentions of Earth Day have sprung up each April from members of both parties. In April 2010, Democrats spoke of Earth Day over 150 times, mostly in commemoration of its 40th anniversary. But no Republican has uttered the words "Earth Day" on the House or Senate floor since 2010.Finally, a great piece by Robert Digitale:
[...] What explains the apparent Republican aversion to talking about Earth Day, and Democrats' eagerness to do so? For one thing, Earth Day was founded 44 years ago by a Democratic senator, Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. Another reason is the increasing polarization of Congress. As recently as 2000, Republican Rep. Benjamin Gilman of New York took to the House floor to say, "From combating global climate change to protecting threatened species to providing clean water, we have a duty to act locally and globally to protect the environment for our present and future generations." Congressional Republicans like Gilman were rare in the 1990s, but they are seemingly extinct today, as over 40 years of vote scores from the League of Conservation Voters shows.
It was a quarter-century ago, and Anderson was seeking advice on graduate school from Denis Hayes, who had been the national coordinator for the first Earth Day. “What is it?” Anderson asked of the crisis.
“It's me,” said Hayes.
For Anderson, who now leads a Santa Rosa nonprofit that promotes land stewardship and outdoor education, the answer meant not to point fingers at others. Instead, he heard anew that each of us has a stake in the planet's future.
Hayes, he said, kept asking himself, “Am I doing enough? Am I walking the talk?”
Now in its 44th year, Earth Day continues to prompt people to consider what they might do as stewards of the world, its supporters say. And today its reach has spread to more than 190 countries.