In 1970, Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act – that was back when even Republicans were environmentalists. In 1970, we also celebrated the first Earth Day. I remember how serious people took Earth Day then.
In 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring and that book served as a kind of catalyst in waking people up to both the preciousness and the precariousness of our earth if we didn’t begin to take better care of it. Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, urban dwellers and rural folks, labor and management. After all, we were all dependent on the health of our planet. By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage if the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.
I would never have believed back then, when we were so committed, that by Earth Day, 2017, a large part of America would have turned against science, mocking the findings of our scientific researchers as “fake news”. I could not have conceived in 1970 that my country would have elected a government determined to undo all the good we’ve done since 1970.
How and why did this happen? We had great successes. Rivers no longer caught on fire. Forests were no longer dying of acid rain. “Smog days” no longer kept children and the elderly from going outside. We banned DDT and the endangered American Eagle began to flourish again. Our vehicles are 99 percent cleaner than they were in 1970. We cut chlorofluorocarbon emissions and the ozone layer is beginning to heal itself.
Now, our government is slashing EPA funding and staff. They are making the country safe for energy companies to drill, frack and mine with impunity. They rescinded the regulation forbidding coal and oil companies to deposit their waste in our waterways. They decided it is fine and dandy to gas wolves in their dens and bears while they are hibernating. They are likely to do away with the Endangered Species act. They would like to open most of our federal lands and even our national parks to privatization for the enrichment of wealthy corporations.
The Trump administration pooh-poohs climate change though 90 percent plus of all the world’s scientists agree it is happening. After 8 long years of working, the world joined together to negotiate the Paris Agreement, This is an agreement within the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change dealing with greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 195 countries adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015. It was opened for signatures on Earth Day, April 22, 2016. The agreement went into effect on November 4, 2016.
Now, our country, which has always been a leader in helping solve the intractable problems that plague our planet, is considering whether to pull out of the Paris Agreement and letting the rest of the world go ahead without us. And China, which has been chomping at the bit to become the world’s leading nation, is primed to take our place as the mover and shaker on climate change.
On Earth Day 2017, the world held Protests for Science but it looks as though America is going to passively accept the damage that will be done in the next four (or God forbid, eight) years. And the environment isn’t something on which you can suddenly reverse course if your change your mind. We can change policies on the economy, immigration, education. Even wars end eventually but the environment is forever once it reaches a certain point.
By 2018, the Western U.S., especially California, is burning. That state is currently experiencing its largest wildfire ever. Half the world is suffering from drought and the highest temperatures since we’ve been keeping records. Hurricanes are becoming ever more vicious. Flooding is taking a huge toll across America.
We all depend on the earth to survive but if we don’t protect the earth, it won’t be able to protect us.