Screw Earth Day! We need an Earth Century!
by Robert T. Nanninga
arth Day 2005 is bittersweet. 35 years ago the idealism of the first Earth Day propelled ecological issues to the forefront of global politics. Earth Day 1970 mobilized 20 million Americans to demonstrate against humanity’s assault on the natural world. Like civil rights and women’s rights, people were ready to talk about the right to clean air, water, food, and forest. Environmental ethics were being discussed as never before. Those were heady times.
1970 was a monumental year for all things green and growing. On January 1st, the Environmental Policy Act of 1969 went into effect, declaring the Federal Government’s responsibility to provide leadership in protecting and enhancing the quality of the nation’s environment to sustain and enrich human life.
Billed as Earth Day, a teach-in, April 22 began the modern environmental movement. The summer of 1970 saw the US Congress enact the first Clean Air Act, and winter the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. 1970 also saw the formation of Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Everglades, and the Lake Michigan Federation.
The Seventies could be easily considered the Earth Decade. Greenpeace was founded in 1971. Riding on the momentum created by Earth Day and a new sense of urgency, Congress enacted the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Ocean Dumping Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973, the same year the Chipco Movement started in the Himalayas and “tree huggers” entered the international arena. Congress passed the Clean Drinking Act in 1974, and Hazardous Waste Transportation Act in '75.
In the Bicentennial year of 1976, Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act to regulate hazardous waste and garbage, and the Whale Conservation and Protective Study Act, to protect and regulate hazardous humans. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter created the Department of Energy, Congress enacted Soil and Water Conservation Act, and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. June 5th, 1977 is most notable as it was the first World Environment Day that marks the start of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, created by 2005 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Waangari Matthai.
In 1978, Congress passed the National Energy Act, which focused on energy conservation, and the Endangered American Wilderness Act. The Reagan Administration later gutted the National Energy Act of everything other than ethanol subsidies. In 1979, Earth First was created by Dave Foreman, and with it the birth of radical environmentalism.
As I said, the 70’s were a relatively good decade. The 80’s were of the Regan era and a constant environmental battle to hold sacred ground from the marauding efforts of the wise use movement and the sagebrush rebellion led by current Bush Interior officials Gale Norton and Mark Rey. The 90’s were marked by an environmental commitment. Death by a thousands cuts, the occupation of the Middle East began under the First Bush, and Clinton wagged more than a few dogs covering up indiscretions such as Monica Lewinsky, NAFTA, WTO, and FTAA.
The administration of George W. Bush has been more destructive in it’s 4-1/2 years in office than the 20 years and 5 administrations fronted by Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, and Bill “salvage riders” Clinton. While distracting the American people with wars of aggression, torture camps, tax cuts, Janet Jackson’s right breast, gay weddings, and fascist religiosity, Team Bush has been dismantling environmental policy more than a century in the making.
Theodore Roosevelt is rolling over in his staunchly republican grave.
No ladies and gentlemen, an Earth Day once a year will not be enough to combat the evils being perpetuated by the Bush jihad. With the US federal government teetering on bankruptcy, it will take decades to restore the damage wrought by Bush, Inc. Somehow, we must jump-start the environmental revolution. Not only do we need to live Earth Day every day, as a species we need a century of profound ecological stewardship if we are to survive our darker nature.
As someone who looks forward to April 22nd every year, and plans accordingly, I understand the importance of recognizing the anniversary of the first Earth Day. I also understand Earth Day is just a symbolic gesture aimed at raising global consciousness. In my book, Earth Day should be a national holiday, dedicated to environmental awareness. I also believe environmentalists need to get aggressive and stop being victims. Not even 70 days into the third Bush term and already the bulldozers are gunning for Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and California Clean Air and fuel efficiency standards.
Enjoy Earth Day. But remember: it's only icing on the cake of environmental activism. There is so much work to be done your great grandchildren’s children will be working to mitigate the policy of ecocide endorsed and carried out by the Bush Administration.
|Robert Nanninga is a free-lance writer, producer and environmental journalist. Robert is a native of Vista living in Leucadia.|