By George B. Kauffman
Earth Day, the world’s largest secular holiday and only event celebrated by more than a half billion people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities, is sponsored by many national and international organizations with outreach programs showcasing the positive contributions that environmental science makes to improve the health of our planet and its citizens.
In 1969, anti–Vietnam War demonstrations convinced U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D–Wis.) and U.S. Representative Pete McCloskey (R–Calif.) to organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment, leading them to found the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. In today’s insidious hyper-partisan atmosphere, such bipartisan agreement on anything would be impossible. Nelson hoped that a grassroots outcry about environmental issues might prove to Washington, D.C., just how distressed Americans were in every constituency. Denis Hayes was the principal organizer of the first Earth Day nationwide.
The first Earth Day marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement. Hayes and his staff organized massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories, power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values. President Richard M. Nixon (a Republican!) helped to amend the Clean Air Act of 1970, which has drastically improved our air quality.
The Earth Day Network (EDN) was founded by Hayes and the organizers of the first Earth Day in 1970 and by other national organizers to promote environmental activism and year-round progressive action, domestically and internationally. EDN members include NGOs, quasi-governmental agencies, local governments, activists and others. They focus on environmental education; local, national and global policies; public environmental campaigns; and organizing national and local Earth Day events to promote activism and environmental protection.
The international network includes more than 19,000 organizations in 192 countries, while the domestic program engages 10,000 groups and more than 100,000 educators coordinating millions of community development and environmental protection activities throughout the year.
In her official proclamation, Mayor Ashley Swearingen cited the following reasons for declaring April 22, 2014, Earth Day in the City of Fresno:
- Earth Day, begun as an annual event on April 22, 1970, focused public attention on pollution and environmental concerns and made the hitherto esoteric term “ecology” a household word; and
- Many national organizations are celebrating it with outreach programs showcasing the positive contributions that environmental science makes to improve the health of our planet and its citizens; and
- Many Earth Day community-sponsored events promoting environmental awareness and education are held to communicate with a wide audience in the San Joaquin Valley; and
- Improving the Valley’s air and water quality is an urgent necessity.
Among the numerous organizations sponsoring Earth Day activities, the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific organization, observes Earth Day with a program emphasizing the positive contributions that chemistry makes to our environment and the health of our planet. Chemistry contributes to a sustainable earth by recognizing and quantifying environmental pollution and by developing environmentally friendly products and processes such as recyclable plastics, cleaner-burning fuels, phosphate-free detergents and environmental monitoring.
The ACS joined the Earth Day celebration on April 22, 2003, and since then it has sponsored annual Chemists Celebrate Earth Day (CCED) events that seek to bring an international focus to environmental causes such as clean air, water and energy.
This year’s theme, “Wonders of Water,” explores the unique properties of water that are crucial for life and a cleaner environment. The ACS provides resources, products and hands-on activities for educators to spice up classroom and laboratory presentations, making available previously published articles and games and sponsoring an illustrated haiku contest for K-12 students and a video contest for college and university students.
The ACS San Joaquin Valley Section is sponsoring its Annual Illustrated Poem Contest for K-12 students using the CCED theme, “Wonders of Water.” A poem (no longer than 40 words in haiku, limerick, ode, ABC poem, free verse, end rhyme or blank verse style), one per student (include name and school grade) from Madera, Fresno, Kings or Tulare counties, must be submitted, preferably electronically (jpg, pdf) with an entry form before April 11 to Spencer Walse, USDA San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center, 9611 South Riverbend Ave., Parlier, CA 93648-9757 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Winners of the top entry in each of the four categories (K-2nd, 3rd-5th, 6th-8th and 9th-12th) will advance to the ACS National Illustrated Poem Contest and receive $40. Winners who submit electronically will have to submit the original artwork to receive the prize.
During the last few years, we’ve seen increased concern with solar energy, air, water, global warming, climate change, environment, alternative energy, oil, carbon or carbon dioxide, ice caps, polar bears, ozone, smog, greenhouse gas emissions, recycling, waste management, biomass conversion, biofuels, ecology and others too numerous to mention. I optimistically—but cautiously—think that we’ve finally reached a tipping point worldwide on the media’s and public’s recognition of the environment and our role in preserving it. It’s about time!
Nevertheless, as progressives, we mustn’t content ourselves with relying only on the efforts of those who have already embraced environmentalism—of “preaching to the choir,” so to speak. We must reach out to convert others to our point of view.
ExxonMobil, General Electric, Toyota, Schlumberger and other disbelievers in global climate change, which for years have lobbied against tougher limits on air pollution, climbed on the bandwagon and tried to “greenwash” their former anti-environmental reputations. Despite its role in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest in the history of the petroleum industry, in the Gulf of Mexico, British Petroleum has the audacity to tout itself as “Beyond Petroleum.” The environmental disaster occurred on April 20 until it was finally capped on July 15, 2010, but, let’s face it, the public has a short memory.
The George W. Bush administration, while spinning a web of pro-environment propaganda, rolled back three decades of bipartisan environmental protections in its efforts to benefit its corporate clients in the oil, gas, coal and other industries at the expense of a clean, healthy and safe environment. On a wide range of issues, for example, global warming, childhood lead poisoning, mercury emissions, climate change, reproductive health, nuclear weapons, energy policy and Arctic drilling, it distorted and censored scientific findings that contradicted its policies.
In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama promised to “restore science to its rightful place.” However, Obama’s recent ambivalent attitude toward the environment has been disappointing, and the Republican resurgence doesn’t augur well for the future. Obama is cynically dubbed “Obusha” by Citizens for Legitimate Government (www.legitgov.org) because of his closeness to Wall Street and his continuing of many of Bush’s policies.
However, if Earth Day raises our consciousness of our obligations to the planet, results in a balanced view of our responsibilities to the fragile ecosystem and makes us aware of the crucial importance of governmental policies on the environment, it cannot but help to have a positive effect.
George B. Kauffman, Ph.D., chemistry professor emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and Guggenheim Fellow, is recipient of the American Chemical Society’s George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education, the Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach and the Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution, and numerous domestic and international honors. In 2002 and 2011, he was appointed a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Chemical Society, respectively.
Earth Day Activities
Compiled by George B. Kauffman
Friday, April 4; Tuesday, April 22; Wednesday, April 23; & Saturday, May 3
GRID Alternatives. 3742 W. Gettysburg Ave., #102. Spreading the word about how to bring solar to the rooftops of low-income family homes throughout the San Joaquin Valley. For more info, contact 559-490-2395 or email@example.com.
Tuesday–Friday, April 1–4
Fresno State Earth Week. Film screenings, a colloquium, a “green bag lunch” seminar and educational activities for local schoolchildren, culminating in a student-organized festival on April 4 on Maple Mall (11 a.m.–4 p.m.), which will showcase local community and campus resources, all centered on the theme of sustainability and environmental stewardship. Free and open to the public. For more info, visit www.facebook.com/fresnostatesustainabilityproject or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, April 1 • 6:30 p.m.
Screening: Switch Energy Project. Room 161, McLane Hall, Fresno State. Switch explores the world’s leading energy sites, from coal to solar, oil to biofuels, most of which are highly restricted and never before seen on film. For more info, visit www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/switchenergyproject.html.
Wednesday, April 2 • 7 p.m.
Sustainability Colloquium and Discussion Panel. Room 191, University Business Center, Fresno State. Featuring Fresno State Professors Madhu Katti and Mark Somma, and author and Grist Food and Agriculture Editor Nathaniel Johnson. For more info, visit www.facebook.com/fresnostatesustainabilityproject.
Thursday, April 3 • 9 a.m.–noon
Tatarian Symposium: Journalism and Climate Change. Satellite Student Union, Fresno State. Journalists and scholars discuss the role of the news media in sorting through conflicting scientific claims and informing the public on the need for political action to curb carbon emissions. Free and open to the public. For more info, contact 559-278-0127 or email@example.com.
Thursday, April 3 • 12:30 p.m.
Green Bag Lunch. Room 210, Science Building 2, Fresno State. A casual lunch gathering to discuss sustainability and environmental stewardship, featuring a local expert on sustainable practices. For more info, visit www.facebook.com/fresnostatesustainabilityproject.
Thursday, April 3 • 6 p.m.
Screening: Living on One Dollar. Peters Educational Center Auditorium, Fresno State. This is a film and a tool to help empower the extreme poor to take the first steps out of poverty. The film follows the story of four young friends who set out to live on just one dollar a day for eight weeks in rural Guatemala. For more info, visit http://livingonone.org.
Friday, April 4 • 9 a.m.–11 a.m.
Environmental Education Activities and Greenhouse Tour. Downing Planetarium Courtyard, Fresno State. Registration open to local 5th and 6th grade classrooms, snacks provided, up to $50 bus credit available. To register your class or for more info, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, April 4 • 5 p.m.
CineCulture: Himalaya Song. Peters Education Center Auditorium, Fresno State. This is a multimedia performance examining the Himalayas as they undergo major environmental and ecological change. Modern sounds combined with ancient instruments accompany visual imagery and storytelling that will take you on a journey through the Himalayas past and present.
Friday, April 4 • 10 a.m.–7 p.m. & Saturday, April 5 • Noon–4 p.m.
Safari Days. Reedley College, 995 N. Reed Ave., Reedley. Join the adventure. For more info, contact 559-638-3641 or email@example.com.
Saturday, April 5 • 7:30 a.m. (run starts 7:30 a.m., walk starts 8 a.m.)
Aquarius Aquarium Institute 5K Run for the Reef and 2-Mile Family Walk. River Park Shopping Center (behind Edwards Cinemas). Adults: $18, $15 members; children 12 and under: $8, $7 members; day of event, adults: $20, children: $10. All proceeds benefit the nonprofit Aquarius Aquarium Institute. For more info, contact 559-490-3474 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, April 5 • 9 a.m.–1 p.m.
Water Planet Adventure Day. Center Court, River Park Shopping Center. A free morning of crafts, storytelling, live music and a touch tidepool tank for the entire family. For more info, contact 559-490-3474 or email@example.com.
Sunday, April 6 • 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Stockton Earth Day Festival. Victory Park, 1201 N. Pershing Ave., Stockton. 26 years of “Living Water Wise” in San Joaquin. A celebration of fun and educational opportunities for the entire family from live music and dance to fun ways to go green. For more info, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, April 12 • 8:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m.
Breakfast with the Animals Party for the Planet and Great EGGspectations. Fresno Chaffee Zoo, 894 W. Belmont Ave. Local conservation organizations provide interpretive and interactive activities for children and families and distribute information. Free with zoo admission; $7 adults, $3.50 children ages 2 to 11, $3.50 senior citizens 62 and older, members free. Breakfast: pancakes, sausage, coffee, milk and juice. Also, enjoy the Winged Wonders Bird Show, animal presentations and live entertainment. After breakfast, celebrate Earth Day at the Party for the Planet and Great EGGspectations and spring-themed animal enrichments. For more info, call 559-498-5921; to order tickets, visit www.fresnochaffeezoo.org/events/fundraising-events.html.
Tuesday, April 15 • 9 a.m.–noon
City Cleanup: City of Sanger. For more info, e-mail email@example.com.
Saturday, April 19 • 9 a.m.–noon
2nd Annual Kerman Earth Day and Eggstravaganza. Lions Park, 744 Park Ave., Kerman. Theme: Water Conservation. Learn about recycling, participate in the Community Litter Pickup after the Easter Egg Hunt, do some fun outdoor activities and earn two fun patches. Bring plastic bottles to recycle. For more info, call 559-286-5081.
Saturday, April 19 • 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Earth Day in the Park Festival: 25th Anniversary. Graceada Park, Modesto. Free shuttle bus to and from the park every 20 minutes at the Cross Point Church parking lot, 1301 12th St. Boyett Petroleum “B Green” Recycling Event. Collections at the north end of the park along Stoddard Avenue. Free paper shredding. Live entertainment.
Tuesday, April 22
Earth Day Events. Schneider Electric Clovis, California Facility, 3500 Pelco Way, Clovis. For more info, call 800-289-9100.
Tuesday, April 22 • 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Earth Day. University of California, Merced, Scholar’s Lane. For more info, contact 209-228-4161 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, April 22 • 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Earth Day Celebration. Oakhurst Feed & Pet Supply, 40119 Enterprise Dr., Oakhurst. Free. Information on how to reduce, reuse, recycle and reeducate. For more info, contact 559-840-2393 or email@example.com.
Wednesday, April 23 • 8:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m.
America’s Party for the Planet at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Local conservation organizations provide interpretive and interactive activities for children and families and distribute information. Free with zoo admission; $7 adults, $3.50 children ages 2 to 11, $3.50 senior citizens 62 and older, members free. A pancake breakfast is available for an additional charge. For more info, call 559-498-5921; to order tickets, visit www.fresnochaffeezoo.org/events/fundraising-events.html.
Wednesday, April 23
6th Annual Green Summit. Enjoy informative speakers on environmental topics. Healthy living alternatives, new developments in construction, emerging new energy sources and awareness for a healthier environment. Reedley College, 995 N. Reed Ave., Reedley. For more info, contact 559-744-3740 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, April 27
4th Annual Central Valley Solarthon. Goshen. A solar installation block party and fund-raiser, GRID Alternative Central Valley’s biggest community workday of the year brings solar power to local families in need while raising money to support GRID Alternative’s work throughout the Valley. For more info, visit www.gridalternatives.org or www.solarthon.org/centralvalley.
Saturday, May 3 • 8 a.m.–noon
City of Visalia Earth Day Celebration. St. Johns Riverwalk (Ben Maddox & St. Johns River). This year’s event will focus on water conservation and will include an exhibitor/vendors event, multiple water efficiency demonstrations, birding and native plant educational walks, live music and a recycled art fashion show. For more info, contact 559-713-4532 or email@example.com or visit www.gogreenvisalia.
To view Earth Day events in California, visit www.seecalifornia.com/events/earthday/california-earth-day.html. For events around the world, visit www.earthday.org.