Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day, April 17, Spokane, April 22, the Date, April 24, Washington DC

So, the discussion since April 17, after a full morning, day, evening and into the night experience we called, Takin' it to the Streets, Spokane! as the 40th Earth Day celebration for a small city, is that the event gave people a number of ways to become active and hopeful. This event brought people together, and in the end, even staid City officials asked politely, out the side of their mouths: "Why can't we do this more often?"

What it was we did was take over streets -- one block of a street called Main Avenue. This was planned as a way to show people in Spokane that the streets are not complete until they are re-appropriated by people. So, we had wheelbarrows, walkers, roller skaters, skateboards, a hand glider, even live raptors, belly dancers, hoop twirlers and a bunch of people with booths and demos and tables and music to come out and break bread and share stories about Earth and Earth Day.

These aren't easy things to accomplish in a world of Byzantine politics, code enforcers, fire marshalls, cops, and health inspectors. We broke concrete to play four urban trees on the block. That was Herculean in itself as all the permits and vetting had to go through the proper channels. In the end, the lessons learned by those younger folk working on the Earth Day events, including digging up concrete and plowing into basalt, is that cities bog down citizens in the name of protecting the greater public health and greater good. In many asides, people were livid at the number of legal-regulatory-openly negative rules we had to follow to do some pretty innocuous and helpful things.

The Day was about celebrating April 22, the official Earth Day going back to 1970. In 1969 the San Francisco Board of Commissioners officially announced Earth Day as that city's weighing in on the bigger national day a year later where more than a million people marched on Washington DC to celebrate the world of clean air, water, land and species integrity, all of which, of course, were being disrupted or negated by our industrial practices.

The entire city and county codes and departmental purview and disconnected permitting processes, all the people with titles, desks, and power, all the politicians who are not quick studies, or who list when seeing community support or community dissent on their favorite issues, all the backroom deals, all the bowing to construction industries, chambers of commerce, and the business sector, all the threats from our state capitols looking to quash any green or sustainability initiative once the economic chopping block is pulled out, all of those caveats and roadblocks tear at the very fabric of participatory democracy, inclusion, community activism.

But this Earth Day showed them, all of them, that citizens can prevail and take back the streets figuratively and literally. We can imagine a world where cars are put aside, where streets can be party or cultural meeting places, where the public spaces we all seek are blocks away from some mall or fast-food court.

We received proclamations from the city and the county, read by the respective politicos within City of Spokane and County of Spokane chambers. What I found interesting at the County proclamation event was that the one commissioner I had been working with on the language had to go to Olympia, and her two male counterparts were sort of taken aback after they read the verbiage.

I had at least 15 minutes with them trying to explain to them the reason why oceanographers look at acidification of the seas as a number one threat, one caused by human-generated greenhouse gasses. These middle-aged white males, I have noticed in this town, and elsewhere, are reluctant to give the science a whirl. They are still mired in false balancing by the media and are still confident about an outright attack on us, this phalanx of scientists and technologists and city designers and planners and stakeholders of every stripe. They attack citizens who study climate change. Why?

At the end of the day, no council member or commissioner still stuck in the 19th Century at the Darwin debate wins the day, to be sure. It all smells rotten, though, when people who are held to the public's trust "standard" and who desire to be agents of change and still try and be combative and sound so smart and elite when they attempt to counter the world with, "There is no proof humans cause global warming . . . there's no proof the earth is even warming up."

Looking at Earth Day, global warming politics, the psychology of group change all some together as a massively fun way to spend the day grappling with code checkers and this cerebral discussion about how we can create an Earth Charter. Looking at all the elements of climate and ecosystem collapses, and seeing the failed response in places like Haiti by the US and the world, it is easy to go apocalyptic.

The failed response of people in the US to educate themselves, to drive themselves toward truths, and to be real humans in a world of other humans and other species is the hardest pill to swallow. Yes, nine out of 10 comments about Earth or Sustainability have some strong sense of perspective if not some support; it's the one out of ten that derides everything, looks at the foolish mindset that says if we want clean air, better transportation choices, better cities, less corporate control, and more community activism that we must be hypocritical hippies who live off the inventions and grand toys and services of the corporation and yet continue berating them. This is a democratic movement, not socialistic, though socialism is a great way to pull other elements in climate change together.

The illogical grounding of that statement saying we have to accept the materials economy as is speaks volumes to the lack of intelligent thinking and maybe sound teaching going on in our schools. Have we hobbled educators that much and our selves in so-called polite company, that we can't work these retrogrades through their pain, their misapplied concept of political and community activism, with education without fear of being stopped, silenced?

Yes, more public transportation, more efficiency, and more walking and biking, but that does not mean the car is dead. We want a set of lifestyle choices, sure, but we don't want those choices at the expense of failed ecosystems, extinctions, toxicity and our own species' ailments all caused by corporations run amok or gone unchecked. It's this line of thinking that produces the failed intelligence at city council meetings, in town halls, on TV when tea bag party folk yammer on and on about meaningless and groundless "stuff" because they happen to be self-imposed/self-inflicted disenfranchised white men and women.

Earth Day is about dialogue, thinking and moving ahead. The work to be done is there, and the challenges we face have yet to be written.

1 comment:

  1. As we celebrate today the "Earth Day" may we start to get into habit the green lifestyle to show importance to our habitat. It's never too late, we can still preserve our mother nature.


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