FWD A critical look at Earth Day 1998

Peace through Reason (prop1@prop1.org)
Mon, 20 Apr 1998 23:51:09 -0400


Environment News Service
Subject: * Healing Our World * Weekly Commentary
Sat Apr 18 17:58:37 EDT 1998

   A critical look at Earth Day 1998
   By Jackie Giuliano

   It is nearly Earth Day 1998, Wednesday, April 22, 1998, two years
   before the year 2000. Yet fossil fuels still produce most of our
   energy. What happened to the grand expectations we all had as children
   to see electric cars and solar powered homes everywhere? Electric cars
   do exist. But it is too soon and they are too expensive, you will
   often be told.

   Yet the CALSTART organization, a non-profit California consortium of
   electric industry participants dedicated to advancing an electric
   transportation technology, lists an amazing array of electric vehicles
   in their database. Their Advanced Transportation Vehicle Catalog lists
   62 airport and industrial electric vehicles, 11 electric personal
   transportation vehicles, 7 electric bicycles, 5 electric buses, 1
   electric truck, and no less than 50 electric passenger cars that are
   available worldwide. Dealers include Ford, Honda, and Saturn. But
   where are they? Do you know anyone that owns an electric vehicle?

   In the Spring of 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson organized a nationwide
   teach-in about the environment. This first Earth Day saw an estimated
   20 million people across the nation participating in peaceful
   demonstrations that called attention to our environmental dilemmas.
   Over 10,000 grade schools, 2,000 colleges, and 1,000 communities
   participated, sending a strong message to political leaders that the
   environment was part of everyone=EDs lives and needed attention.

   The message was heard and in the next few years, sweeping
   environmental legislation was enacted including the Endangered Species
   Act, The Federal Clean Air Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control
   Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, and the creation of the
   Environmental Protection Agency.

   An energy of environmental awareness was emanating from around the
   nation. It was a powerful time of awareness and it appeared, for a
   while, that the sobering realization of our impact on the natural
   world might result in positive change. Species were saved, habitats
   protected, and development projects were stopped. Here are a few other
   things that happened on Earth Day 1970:

     * In New York City, Fifth Avenue was closed to automobiles and over
       100,000 people attended an ecology fair in Central Park.

     * Congress adjourned for the day and over five hundred of its
       members attended teach-ins at universities or made speeches about
       saving the environment.

     * The United Auto Workers led a parade through downtown St. Louis
       featuring a smog-free car.

     * Ohio University students pasted stickers reading "This is a
       polluter" on cars in Athens, Ohio.

     * New York Governor Rockefeller signed a measure coordinating
       pollution abatement and conservation activities.

   What does Earth Day 1998 bring? Will Congress adjourn for the day to
   attend teach-ins. I don=EDt think so.

   Twenty-eight years later, I am feeling rather cynical. Earth Day 1998
   is a Hallmark card holiday, a day of clean-ups, restorations,
   marathons, educational booths, plantings, and parades. Twenty thousand
   people are expected to show up in Clover Park in Los Angeles on
   Saturday, April 18 at an Earth Day event sponsored by the Los Angeles
   Department of Environmental Affairs. Maria Luisa de Herrera, the
   city=EDs cultural affairs administrator, told the L.A. Times that "we=EDl=
   have two stages going all day, strolling performers, workshops - both
   ecological and artistic, [and] community booths. It will be a whole
   variety of experiences." There will be, I am sure, opportunities to
   buy products to filter our poisoned air and water.

   It will be a whole variety of experiences, she says. Except there will
   be no demonstrations pledging solidarity to those fighting for the
   cleanup of our earth, our seas, and our skies. There will be no
   protest of the obscene business practices that make it OK for billions
   of dollars to be spent on advertising new products by industry while
   only a few pennies are spent on eliminating hunger and disease.

   The Microsoft Corporation alone spent one billion dollars for
   advertising Windows 95. The Gillette company spent $750 million to
   develop a new razor and will spend $300 million advertising it in
   1998. Yet we are told that our government cannot afford clean air and
   water and health for our children. Business will suffer, we are told.
   We do spend millions on environmental monitoring, but we spend very
   little on stopping the madness.

   In the first 12 weeks of 1998, you and I and our friends spent $2.2
   billion buying videos. Every day, one billion servings of Coca-Cola
   are consumed. In the first quarter of 1998, the Coca-Cola company=EDs
   net income was $857 million. Allergan, the company that makes our
   contact lens cleaners, made $23 million profit in the first quarter of
   1998. Fruit of the Loom made a whopping first quarter profit of $31.2
   million from selling underwear. Two direct mail companies merged last
   year in a $13.5 billion deal.

   But the World Game Institute tells us that we could remove all land
   mines from the Earth for $2 billion, provide shelter for everyone on
   the planet for $21 billion, provide health care and AIDS control
   worldwide for $21 billion, and eliminate starvation and malnutrition
   worldwide for $19 billion. Dear goddess, what are we doing?

   I love the dark hours of my being.
   My mind deepens into them.
   There I can find, as in old letters,
   the days of my life, already lived,
   and held like a legend, and understood.

   Then the knowing comes: I can open
   to another life that=EDs wide and timeless.

   So I am sometimes like a tree
   rustling over a gravesite
   and making real the dream
   of the one its living roots

   a dream once lost
   among the sorrows and songs.

   -- Rainer Maria Rilke (translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)

   The official Earth Day web site (see Resources below) lists hundreds
   of Earth Day activities around the country. None of the events I
   looked at in California and Washington revealed any protests,
   demonstrations, or civil disobedience to let our lawmakers and
   business leaders know that we will not stand for an economic system
   that rewards a tiny group of its leaders with the spoils obtained from
   the suffering of others. Nowhere could I find any protests or marches
   that marked the birth of Earth day 28 years ago, when 20 million
   people said I want a better way to live - not a better way to shop.

   What will history tell of Earth Day 1998? A cynical entry in a
   newspaper years from now might read, "Many festivals and craft fairs
   were held. The street performers were good. A few beaches got cleaned
   up for a few hours. People went on hikes and many farm animals were
   petted. Yet while these cute festivals were happening, the following
   took place, in the United States alone on that day:
     * 200,000 tons of edible food was thrown out (more because of the
     * 313 million gallons of fuel was used (a lot of it driving to the
       festivals) - enough to drain
     * 26 tractor-trailer trucks every minute
     * 18 million tons of raw materials were taken from the Earth
     * 6.8 billion gallons of drinking water was used to flush toilets
     * 1 million bushels of litter was thrown out of car windows
     * 10,000 minks were added to closets and coat racks
     * $200 million was spent on advertising
     * 100 million board feet of wood was sawed up
     * 250,000 tons of steel was used
     * 187,000 tons of paper was used, a lot of which was used to print
       Earth Day flyers, and
       a shaver company made 3 million dollars in profit.

   On Earth Day 1998:
     * Forty percent of research and development expenditures and 60
       percent of the physical scientists and engineers were devoted to
       developing weapons to kill everyone on Earth 67 times over
     * One-quarter of the adults on this planet could not read or write
     * 1 out of 5 people was hungry and malnourished and did not have
     * 1 out of 5 people lacked clean drinking water
     * 1 out of 3 people lacked adequate health care, and
     * 60,000 children under the age of 5 died that day from bad drinking
       water worldwide.

   There were some scattered protests, but for most of the leaders of the
   United States, it was just another day at the office, counting the
   lucrative revenue from the day."

   It is so hard to define ourselves in our world today. The temptation
   is great to buy products that will clean up our personal environments.
   Yet I fear that doing this is a passive message of approval to those
   that are poisoning our earth, our air, and our water. Should we
   instead be insisting that the poisoning be stopped rather than
   encouraging the creation of another multibillion dollar industry
   committed to resource use on a grand scale?

   And what about those electric cars? Why don=EDt we all have one? Well,
   there is a not so small matter of their cost. Expect to pay from $400
   to $600 a month to lease one from Ford, Honda or Saturn. The
   electricity cost is low (about $1 per day, free if you use charging
   stations around town), but very few of us have the kind of money
   necessary to support one of these cars.

   I keep asking myself why the auto makers should be allowed to make
   back their research costs on a vehicle that should be available to
   everyone? A silly question to ask in a world where only those who can
   afford medication for their life-threatening diseases will be allowed
   to live. It doesn't seem to me that the concerns that were present on
   Earth Day 1970 have been addressed completely.

   So on Earth Day 1998, resist the urge to drive to a festival, spend
   your money, and pretend it is a birthday party. Why give the Corporate
   World Order one more reason to laugh at us as they wheel their
   plundered millions to the bank?

   Instead, why not get a group of friends together and protest the
   polluting of your community? Why not get a group of folks to spend an
   hour writing a letter of protest, addressing the envelopes and mailing
   them that day?

   Why not take your children to the beach or the forest or the county
   park and teach them how to notice the web of life? Why not show them
   how important it is to pick up trash and to tell others it is wrong
   when they litter?

   How about turning your TV off and teaching your children that they
   don=EDt need to buy something or get a new toy to feel strong and

   How about deciding to not go anywhere in a car that day or to buy
   anything. Ponder what a profound impact it would have if everyone in
   the country did not use a single drop of gasoline or bought a single
   thing that day. Our leaders would sit up an take notice so fast it
   would make their heads swim.

   Why not make this Earth Day 1998 an opportunity to decide what kind of
   world you want for you and your family and your children. It IS your
   choice. Decide what that world should look like and make it so. If not
   now, when?


   1. Visit an Earth Day website at [3]http://www.earthday.org/index.html
   and visit the EnviroLink Network's Earth Day website at

   2. Visit the San Francisco Bay Area Earth Day website at
   [5]http://www.baaction.org/earth_day/index.html for a good set of
   visions for the day.

   3. Learn about the electric vehicles on the market at
   [6]http://www.calstart.org/cgi-bin/catalog.cgi and write to the
   vehicle manufacturers encouraging them to bring their prices down,
   applying their billion dollar profits to subsidize the electric
   vehicle program. You can link to all the car manufacturers from this

   4. Visit the Saturn EV1 web site at [7]http://www.gmev.com/ for a look
   at one of the nicer electric vehicles. Send them an email message
   telling them (and the other car makers) that you do not need high
   performance in the vehicles. Tell them you want them to spend their
   time making vehicles that will go long distances on a charge, not ones
   that duplicate the wasteful performance of traditional cars.

   5. Let Congress know how you feel. Get easy e-mail access to those on
   the appropriate committees at

   6. Earth Day 1998 might be a great time to get your family to watch
   the Diet for a New America video by Jon Robbins, possibly the most
   important 60 minutes you and your family and friends could watch. You
   can get a copy at [9]http://earthsave.org/catalog.htm

   7. Visit the World Game Institute at
   [10]http://www.worldgame.org/wwwproject/index.html for their amazing
   "What the World Wants Project" to get details on the costs and
   assumptions presented above. It is a remarkable resource that will
   open your eyes forever.

   8. Changelinks is a publication that provides a calendar of activist
   events in the Southern California. Visit them at
   [11]http://www.labridge.com/change-links/ and find a similar calendar
   for your home town.

   9. Find many lesser known environmental links at

   10. On Thursday, April 23 in Beverly Hills, join the Nation Institute,
   Physicians for Social Responsibility, and KPFK Pacifica Radio for a
   town meeting about "The Case for Nuclear Abolition" with former
   Senator Alan Cranston, Jonathan Schell, author of the Fate of the
   Earth and others. Contact (310) 458-2694 for more information.

   11. The financial data for the companies presented above came from the
   Los Angeles Times Business Section from April 15,16, and 17 1998. You
   can get access to this data at their web site at
   [13]http://www.latimes.com/ They charge for all but the day=EDs news,
   but you can easily get more data on the corporations=ED discussed by
   visiting their own web sites. They are quite proud of their earnings
   and will give the info to you freely. Just search for the company name
   in any of the Internet search engines.

   {Jackie Giuliano can be found considering what he should be doing on
   Earth Day in Venice, California. He is a Professor of Environmental
   Studies for Antioch University, Los Angeles, and the University of
   Phoenix Southern California Campuses. He is also the Educational
   Outreach Manager for the Outer Planets/Solar Probe Project, a NASA
   program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to send space probes to
   Jupiter=EDs moon Europa, the planet Pluto, and the Sun. Please send your
   thoughts, comments, and visions to him at ecojackie@mediaone.net and
   visit his web site at [14]www.jps.net/jackieg}

   The Environment News Service is exclusively hosted by
   the [23]EnviroLink Network. Copyright =A9 1998 ENS, Inc.