Earth Day 2009

22 April 2009

In The Air
Reflections on Earth Day and state of American environmentalism
(The New Yorker) The first celebration of Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, was a raucously exuberant affair. … Among those who seemed unmoved was President Richard Nixon. He avoided the festivities and made no public comment on them. (One of his aides, John Whitaker, later acknowledged that the Administration had been “totally unprepared” for the wave of environmental activism “that was about to engulf us.”) Nevertheless, even Nixon seems to have got the message. Three months afterward, he created the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and five months after that he signed the Clean Air Act. The Clean Water Act, the Pesticide Control Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act all became law by the end of 1974.
… This week, when Earth Day turns thirty-nine, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation will plant trees. The Interior Department will host a fair in Washington’s Rawlins Park, and in Bloomington volunteers will teach sixth graders about karsts and creeks. As perhaps befits a middle-aged celebration, these are all eminently reasonable activities. But Earth Day has lost its edge and, with that, the sense that a different world is possible. Even more than in 1970, what’s needed now is an outpouring that organizes itself—with millions of people and, for good measure, some stinky dead fish in the streets.

Nicholas Stern: We must not give in to pessimism
“The one way of guaranteeing to fail is to assume that we will,” he added.
Stern’s description of the scale of the problem was characteristically uncompromising – “this is the biggest market failure the world has ever seen”, “the world is more risky than I articulated [in the Stern Review]”, we risk a “transformation of the planet”. But the talk itself, which was to promote his new book, A Blueprint for a Safer Planet, had an upbeat tone. His message was that we have a pretty good idea what the solutions are and what we need to avoid. New technologies like better renewable energy are vital, energy efficiency is a must, deforestation has to be halted and massive fiscal stimulus packages designed to deal with the economic crisis can and should transform the world economy with a greener hue.
In particular, Stern said the world has to get a move on with carbon capture and storage. Currently around half the world’s electricity comes from burning coal so we have to find a way of doing that without releasing stacks of CO2. “If coal is going to be used, the only response – because it is the dirtiest of all fuels – is that we have to learn how to do carbon capture and storage and we have to learn how to do it quickly on a commercial scale,” he said.

Earth Day Atonement: 10 Environmental Disasters to Remember
Ten tragic lessons in our nation’s environmental history that should never be forgotten.
And one climate destabilization tragedy in the making that needs our urgent help.

* Extinction: Three Species Per Hour
* Everything in Its Path: Mountaintop Removal
* Donora Smog: Worst Air Pollution Disaster
* Love Canal: The Origins of the Superfund
* Exxon Valdez Oil Spill:
* Black Mesa: Removing the Liver of the Earth
* Hurricane Katrina: A Failure of Initiative
* The Worst Hard Time: The Making of the Great Dust Bowl
* Bhopal: How Union Carbide Made the World Flat
* The Future Earth Day is Now: Kivalina Vs. ExxonMobil

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