Earth Day can’t be Hijacked by Madison Avenue –
Putting the “A” in Earth
Here comes the drum roll for Earth Day 2010. . . .
Earth Day 2010 could be a turning point in forcing the US and G-8, G-20, Group of 4, or Group of 77 to move aggressively toward green jobs, energy efficiency, renewable energy, food security and more, all under the marquee of Climate Change Paradigm Shift.
According to the Earth Day Network, 1 billion of us will celebrate and take action for Earth Day. The first one was loosely organized 40 years ago, largely with the political clout and will of Sen. Gaylord Nelson, who asked Americans to consider the burning rivers in Ohio, massive waves of smog in LA, and unending eutrophication of our nation’s lakes as contrary to American values, and against the American ideal of “this land is your land.”
This 40th one – April 17 in Spokane and then up to April 24 as the nation celebrates in Washington, D.C. — occurs when the world is scrambling to plan for climate change, sea level rise, freshwater shortages, loss of soil volume and fecundity, human and animal displacement, and dozens of other ecosystem strains. Think about planning for human diasporas beyond calculation.
It’s also an era of huge energy and fossil fuel monopolies not only wresting control of our energy policies, but determining foreign policy and military engagement. On one hand, scientists are looking at the impacts of mountaintop removal and coal mining and burning coal on local watersheds as well as the global atmosphere. They’re studying the loss of nutritional value in crops due to climate change. And looking into the causes of pollinators like bees collapsing as a species. And why some forests are receding and other flora like sagebrush is advancing.
Working in tundra country and on the ice shelves of the world, underwater along the coral atolls and high atop elfin forests in rainforests, scientists are gathering forensic evidence from those smoking guns we all began to suspect as earth’s killers in the early 1990s. Somehow, we in the environmental movement began to see humanity’s waste and consumption as harbingers of climate change and the Sixth Mass extinction.
The sciences, deep ecology, policy think tanks, grassroots organizing and community empowerment associated with Earth Day don’t just stay anchored to stewarding wild places, protecting wildlife and working on humanity’s need for open spaces or parks.
Earth Day 2010, for example, is about Charles Moore’s work as a sea captain studying the giant plastic gyre (garbage patch) in the Pacific. The size of Texas, this garbage swill contains more plastic shards and micro-small pieces of plastic than animal life – at a rate of 6 to 1.
April 22 is about Janine Benyus looking at nature as a blueprint and operating system in an area known as biomimicry. Remember Velcro? Think snaggy thistle or any number of weeds. Her work looks at reducing resource harvesting, enhancing the life cycle of products, and replicating nature’s designs applied to the way we build buildings and create cities by cutting out toxins and decelerating materials use and energy consumption.
Rachel Carson is not a long-gone and overused icon of the environmental movement this Earth Day because, unfortunately, her 1962 book, “Silent Spring,” did not stop the exponential growth in organo-chemicals and other synthetics used in almost every process of our daily lives, even in daily breaking of bread.
Hormone-disrupting synthetics, some from plastics, others from hundreds of chemicals used to grow, treat and process our foods, have created a nation of twitch-riddled, food-allergic, cognitively-challenged hormone-disrupted future cancer patients.
Today, one is warned to step aside a beached orca or dolphin because of enormous quantities of bio-accumulated PCBs, methyl mercury and other hazardous compounds. Killer whales taped off with Haz-Mat tape? What has the world come to in 40 years?
Earth Day 2010 is about clean air, water, land, but also about understanding and planning for the inevitable forces put upon civilization as a result of Peak Oil and Climate Change. In 1970, before the oil embargo, I remember tooling around from Tucson to the Sea of Cortez for some wicked diving along fertile reefs (they aren’t fertile anymore). That was on 22 cents a gallon petrol. Those earlier moments in our country’s history, when crude gushed to the surface, are long gone, and now we are in a time when the energy required to find and extract a barrel of oil equals the energy contained in that barrel.
Maybe Earth Day 2010 will be about building monuments for coal miners in all 50 states since this country still gets half of its electricity from dirty coal-burning electricity power plants. The fight against Massey Energy on mountaintop removal is now shifted into a social justice battle as those 29 coal miners who recently perished in poorly maintained and safety-anemic Massey-run mines are a testament to the impact of the fossil fuel world we depend upon.
This celebration and gathering on Earth Day 2010 must be about acknowledging the science, continuing the uphill battle to win the hearts and minds of the American public, and believing the scientific reality that any concentration of carbon dioxide greater than 350 parts per million in the atmosphere is not compatible with maintenance of the biosphere on the “planet on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” NASA scientist and climate expert James Hansen repeatedly says it – we have to stop burning coal almost immediately – by 2020.
Many call for a post-carbon world where all human endeavors and systems are run on renewable energy and cities are compact or large and efficient.
The Number 350 is that magic digit many will be chanting as their mantra this Earth Day. Earth Day is about looking Obama in the face and getting him to change. It’s about considering farmers tending more than 93 million acres of corn and demanding an end to ethanol, an energy source that takes more energy to make than we get out of it. Earth Day is about stopping the sloughing off of millions of pounds of chemicals like Atrazine and nitrogen-based fertilizers sprayed for these so-called SUV fuel crops as cases of birth defects and miscarriages, plus cancers, rise each year in the so-called “corn-belt.”
Earth Day is about celebrating youth projects, giving students the curriculum and administrators to allow for truly innovative and worthy teaching. It’s about learning more from Jan Lundberg of California who hasn’t owned a car in 20 years and tore up his driveway and planted a garden. Chris Hedges, author of nine books, including “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009), is talking paradigm shift this Earth Day:
“The reason the ecosystem is dying is not because we still have a dryer in our basement. It is because corporations look at everything, from human beings to the natural environment, as exploitable commodities. Consumption is the engine of corporate profits. We have allowed the corporate state to sell the environmental crisis as a matter of personal choice when actually there is a need for profound social and economic reform. We are left powerless.”
Earth Day is about giving voice to thinkers with deeper analyses of the broken system, like Elizabeth Kolbert (“Field Notes from a Catastrophe”) and George Monbiot (“Heat”). In the end, no matter how much science-based information or wonky studies we have at our beck and call, Earth Day 2010 is about leading people into a decade of real change:
“We need to separate ourselves from the corporate government that is killing the planet,” said Derrick Jensen, author many books, including “The End Game.” “We need to get really serious. We are talking about life on the planet. We need to shut down the oil infrastructure. I don’t care, and the trees don’t care, if we do this through lawsuits, mass boycotts or sabotage.”
While most local Earth Day 2010 celebrations will be all about the soft sell of what it means to be on the planet, to be “stewards” of the “lower” species, and to reduce waste and pollution, the real work starting this Earth Day is to bring down the system that depends on protecting the corporate elites and those with power and money. Earth Day 2010is about community activism and community governance, whereby a social response is the only conduit to dealing with global heating.
“Earth Day 2010, Takin’ it to the Streets, Spokane!” is a gathering place for those working to give people in poverty voice and opportunities to share in the green movement.
Common citizens will see the green movement isn’t just concerned with dolphins, spotted owls and pine forests. We’re working on showing our citizenry how equity, education, and environment are keys to sustainability.
Earth Day is about beginning those conversations, sharing stories about the economics of sustainability, and how money should become a tool by which the community can make the change the Green Generation demands and deserves.
As the day unfolds and hundreds of photographs are taken, we still will have the following week to make our Spokane message clear. On April 24 more than a million people will be in Washington, D.C,. while our city’s photos are displayed on a 120-foot-by-60 foot JumboTron.
Earth Day 2010 is the beginning of a massive movement, starting one city at a time.