Friday, April 22, 2005

In Regards to Earth Day 2005

Today marks the 35th Earth Day, and so I'm going to take a minute to wax philosophical about the state of the planet. See, traditionally, Earth Day has been an occasion to celebrate this blue-green world that we all share while simultaneously rallying towards greater, greener change. And yet, Earth Day 2005 went off not with a bang but with a confused sob -- as a global culture, we're going backwards in time when it comes to conservation and environmentally-friendly attitudes. The media has been quick to point out this Earth Day how far we've come since the first Earth Day, 35th years ago. And true, air pollution is down in the States and Americans are, for the most part, more aware of environmental issues. But with those comparably minute steps forward comes an apparent impassiveness and a feeling that the threat to the Earth can be, or even has been, overcome. And that false sense of security could be just as damaging to Mother Nature as the pre-1970's ignorance. Americans still rank concerns about the planet and global warming below issues like jobs and the economy. Scientists are still stuck arguing in circles over the fact of global warming, while the Bush Administration actively buries reports stating the truth about global warming. While hundreds of plants and animals are endangered or threatened, this week, the Bush Administration allowed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Meanwhile, thanks to global warming, polar bears have been forced to shore earlier each season, resulting in a forseeable threat to their reproduction and overall population numbers. There are well over 600 million cars in the States and more being manufactured every day; by comparison, the U.S. is home to a population of less than 300 million people. The Kyoto Protocol, a global agreement to reduce worldwide air pollutant emissions has been rebuffed time and time again by the U.S., effectively neutering it and rendering the Protocol ineffective. The Bush Administration has not made any efforts to negotiate changes to the Protocol that would make it acceptable to the States. (more about the Bush Administration and the environment) And today, Bush skipped attending an Earth Day 2005 celebration at Great Smokey Mountains National Park to stump for his "Clear Skies" legislation at a Tennesee airport. The legislation does not limit the emission of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming, and would allow companies to sell or trade their 'pollution rights' amongst one another if they don't emit as much pollutant as they are allocated. Incidentally, Bush appropriately chose an airport as the site for his Earth Day 2005 speech. Air traffic has nearly doubled since the first Earth Day in 1970, and the emission of toxic VOCs and nitrous oxides by planes was 350 million pounds during takeoff and landings alone in 1993. Airports are a high source of local air pollution both from planes and ground traffic, which itself can make up almost 56% of local VOC emissions. Both classes of toxic compounds are the precursors to deadly ground-level ozone. So yes -- Happy 35th Earth Day. Now, let's drop the big ass cake and get our act together to actually save this planet.


Anonymous unfurling said...

I'm a brit and we have a general election on May 5th. I decided a few months ago that I need to take a longer term view when making my voting decision. So as the environment is the only show in town during this next century, all my votes will now be informed by the environmental policy of the parties.

The problem is that in the UK we have a vibrant green party who DIDNT BOTHER PUTTING UP A CANDIDATE IN MY CONSTITUENCY. Grrrr.

It's worth pointing out (and implied in your post) that we lucky non-Americans are but a side show to the main event taking place in the Land Of the Free To Pollute (I just made that up, I'm proud of it!)

4/24/2005 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

good for you, although unfortunately, at least in the States, the two party system constrains people who care about the environment to vote based on who with a tolerable environmental policy is likely to win if you want your vote to matter.

and you're right that the unfortunate side effect of the U.S. being such an economic superpower is that it forces the rest of the world to cater to the whims of the American leadership rather than circumvent them and do something for the environment anyways.

4/24/2005 08:43:00 PM  

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