By George B. Kauffman
- 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.
- 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.
- Many Earth Day community-sponsored events promoting environmental awareness and education are held to communicate with a wide audience in the San Joaquin Valley.
- Improving the Valley’s air and water quality is an urgent necessity.
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-Wisconsin) and U.S. Representative Pete McCloskey (R-California) 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, 46 years ago. 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.
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 reached over 19,000 organizations in 192 countries, while the domestic program engaged 10,000 groups and over 100,000 educators coordinating millions of community development and environmental protection activities throughout the year.
A special field—green chemistry—develops environmentally benign chemical products and processes in the context of renewable resources. See my article, “Green Chemistry—What It Is and What It Isn’t” in the January 2011 issue of the Community Alliance (fresnoalliance. com/wordpress?p=2358).
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 (CEED) events that seek to bring international focus to environmental causes such as clean air, water, and energy (http://www.acs.org/content/ acs/en/education/outreach/cced.htmll). This year’s theme, “The Great Indoors – Your Home’s Ecosystem,” explores climate science and the role that chemistry plays in the 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.
During the last few years we’ve seen an 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 (BP) 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 very 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, e.g., 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.” Federal courts have repealed most of the Bush administration’s clean air regulations, driven by politics not science. However, Obama’s 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 (http://www.legitgov.org) because of his closeness to Wall Street ad 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.
LOCAL EARTH DAY ACTIVITIES
Saturday, April 9, 2016; 8:30 am – 11:30 am. Breakfast with the Animals, Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Pancakes, sausage, cuties, donuts, hot coffee, milk, juice; NEW African Adventure Canopy Grove event area; Winged Wonders Bird Show, animal presentations and live entertainment. Admission prices: (Children 1 and under are FREE) Members: $8.00 Adults (12 years and up) $6.00. Children (2-11 years). Non- Members: $16.00 Adults (12 years and up) $12.00 Children (2-11 years); Non-Member Day of Event (if available): $17.00 Adults (12 years and up) $13.00 Children (2-11 years).
Saturday April 16, 2016. Earth Day 2016 at Millerton Lake SRA: Organized by California State Parks Foundation. Presented by PG&E. Hosted by Millerton Lake State Recreation Area. 5290 Millerton Rd, Friant, CA 93626 (at the Grange Grove picnic area). Registration @ 8:30am. Project Time 9am-12:30pm. Projects: Litter collection around south shore of Millerton Lake, planting of drought resistant trees, and replacement of split rail fencing in heavily used picnic areas. www.calparks. org/help/earth-day
Wednesday, April 20, 2016. Fresno State Earth Day Fair, 10 am-2pm, Memorial Garden in front of and east of the Kennel Bookstore on campus; free drawing will encourage students, faculty, and staff to participate in events and reward them for pledging to live more sustainably; educational, activity and non-profit booths in addition to food vendors (Dutch Brothers! Dusty Buns!) and local product vendors and student clubs and organizations: Criss Wilhite, crissw@csufresno. edu; (559) 240-9662 cell; Johnathan Benson, email@example.com
Friday, April 22, 2016 Earth Day celebration, students on the Chemists Celebrate Earth Day committee will be engaging students on the Duncan Patio at Fresno State (by the Peters’ Business Building) from 2 PM to 4 PM, faculty, staff and community members; refreshments; firstname.lastname@example.org); facebook. com/fresnostatechemistryclub; Twitter (@FresnoCHEMClub).
Saturday, April 23, 2016 Earth Day Fresno, Radio Park, 10am – 4pm. Free community event, Water conservation, recycling, composting, water-wise gardening, air quality issues, solar energy, etc., Hands-on exhibits and vendors of Earth-friendly goods and services, clean-energy vehicles. Local car dealerships offering test-drives of all-electric vehicles. Presentations by solar energy companies. Free valet bike parking, kitchen and bicycle safety demonstrations. Live music and food provided by popular local food vendors like Dusty Buns, Cowboy Shaman, and Sno Café, etc. Children’s activities, including games and crafts. Earth Day will coincide with the Fresno Art Museum’s “FAMily Day.” Earth-themed art projects will be featured at the museum with music, and lots of art. Free environmental films throughout the day in the museum’s Bonner Auditorium. www.earthdayfresno.org; www.facebook.com/EarthDayFresnoo
Tom M. Esqueda | Executive Director GRID Alternatives. 3742 W. Gettysburg Ave., #102 Fresno, CA 93722. o: 559-490-2395 | c: 559-304-0304 | f: 559-420-0357. Website | Facebook | Twitter | Photo Gallery | People. Planet. Employment
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, Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach, and 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.