Monday, April 19, 2010

Earth Day -- Then & Now

I had the good fortune at the invitation of WHYY to see the new film Earth Day.

Earth Day told the story of why and how the first Earth Day in 1970 came to be.

It was interesting and scary to see the course of events played out over the course of an hour (or so) that led to the first Earth Day.  It was inspiring to see the tremendous energy and action and commitment that went into creating Earth Day, launching the environmental movement of the United States, and making change for the benefit of us all.

So much I didn't remember and/or didn't know.  So much I did remember and was reminded of.

And it was sad to see how much of the past that inspired all of this environmental protection is still happening today in new and increasing ways.

The Earth Day of 1970 was the start of a movement -- an environmental movement, a movement to pursue and achieve change.  Passage of the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Coastal Zone Management Act; creation of the Environmental Protection Agency; solar panels on the roof of the White House.

Today Earth Day is starkly different -- today it is a single day of education and perhaps a little bit of action -- mainly with our kids -- and then it ends with the day.

Because Earth Day has lost its power and inspiration the solar panels at the White House (put there by President Carter) were removed (by President Reagan); and the laws passed continue to be methodically eroded by industry and politicians with little opposition from the public at large.  Deepening and offshore oil drilling to benefit big oil and undermine alternative energy despite of the environmental harms is very much alive in the Delaware River watershed.  PCBs, a toxin so dangerous its use was banned in the 1980s but it is still discharged legally from over 100 sources into the Delaware River.  Natural Gas extraction is being pursued in a way that will turn our beautiful upper Delaware into an industrial landscape, pollute our waterways and threaten drinking water supplies, and sap our streams and aquifers dry of water and health.  And development runs rampant - including so aggressively that folks like Governor Rendell think it is perfectly acceptable to fill in 33 acres of the Delaware River to accommodate development.

This has to stop!

Earth Day's next 40 years need to be about a movement for change, for strengthened environmental laws, and expanding environmental restoration.

In fact, with this blog post, I challenge each one of you to begin this year by:
(1) getting involved at the community level -- get active and vocal on one environmental issue threatening a water or ecosystem you care about (to help identify some issues and how you can get involved go to the Delaware Riverkeeper website and check out the action page) and by
(2) making a change in your personal life -- make one relatively dramatic life change that reduces your impact on the earth such as revegetating your lawnscape with native trees or shrubs (for more info on how to accomplish this go to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network website at or perhaps installing solar panels on your roof.

And please, email me at to tell me about the step or steps you took this year to help defend the Delaware River, its tributaries or any of the habitats and ecosystems in its watershed.  Send me text and pictures as you see fit to help share your story.  I'd love to see the change we can accomplish when we all commit to take action over the course of the year together and to turn Earth Day 2010 into the beginning of a new movement for our River, our environment and our Earth.

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