In one fashion or another I’ve been promoting Earth Day events for almost twenty years in Rochester. In that time, local environmentalist have tried to capture the public’s attention on the one day of the year held sacrosanct for environmental concerns. Even our media, always looking for news opportunities, turns their attention towards our life support system on Earth Day.
Some of the environmental issues we highlighted to capture the public’s attention were:
· “Biotechnology: An Organic Farmer’s Perspective” Keynote speech by Mary-Howell Martens
· “The cost of sprawl to the environment, the economy, and people of the region” Keynote Speaker: Rochester Mayor William A. Johnson, Jr.
· “From Crisis To Opportunity” A Forum on National, State, & Local Environmental Issues Keynote Speakers: Elizabeth Thorndike, David Higby, Jack Bradigan Spula
· “Protecting and Policing New York’s Environment” Keynote Speaker: Peter Lehner, JD Chief of the Environmental Protection Bureau of the NY Attorney General’s Office
· “Hemlock/Canadice: the Future of Our ‘Little’ Lakes” Keynote Speakers: Andy Beers and Jim Howe
· “Transportation Alternatives for Rochester A Vision for the Future” Keynote Speakers: Richard Perrin, David Keefe and John Thomas.
· “Local and Sustainable Food – Local Food Choices” Keynote Speakers: Michael Warren Thomas, Elizabeth Henderson, and Peter McDonald
· “Transitioning to Sustainable Communities” Keynote Speaker: Tina Clarke from the Sustainability Institute
· “Sustainable Production, Rochester’s Cutting Edge” Keynote Speakers Dr. Nabil Nasr, RIT’s Assistant Provost and Director of the Golisano Institute for Sustainability; Catherine Reeves, the Director of Sustainable Operations at Xerox Corporation
· “Our Water’s Fragile Future: Hydrofracking, Climate Change, & Privatization” Keynote Speaker: Jim Olson, a Michigan environmental attorney
· “Protecting Our Great Lakes Forever” Keynote Speaker: author Maude Barlow
· “Climate Smart Communities: Let’s Get With the Program” Keynote Speaker: Mark Lowery, Climate Policy Analyst, Office of Climate Change, New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation
· “Climate, Energy, and Intergenerational Justice”: Keynote Speaker: Dr. James Hansen
· “Agriculture and Climate Change: Formulating Sustainable Choices”
We covered many specific environmental concerns back in the day. But even within this short span of time, the themes have gravitated quickly towards Climate Change. In other words, we used to have a lot of separate environmental problems but now we have one. Climate Change is becoming a singularity at which many environmental issues, including public health and climate justice, are now swirling because it is an existential threat.
This year’s Earth Day is special because our environment needs as much attention by the public as it did on the first Earth Day in 1970, where millions took to the streets.
“On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in 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 and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.” (The History of Earth Day, Earth Day Network)
Now, a couple of groups in Rochester are making plans for Earth Day 2017. The Rochester Sierra Club is inviting the “man who was elected as the first African American President of the Sierra Club, Aaron Mair.” (December eco-logue). At the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition, we are working on a large parade downtown. Inclusiveness, joining together, and accepting everyone from every walk of life are key to any kind of solution that will matter.
In every way possible, we have tried over the years to engage the public and get them to demonstrate their concern for their life support system. As Climate Change becomes more of a threat to our existence, so are the efforts of environmental activists, even as a great cancer of climate denial metastasizes throughout our land.
Just after this Earth Day, the People’s Climate Mobilization begins in Washington, DC.
“New year, new resolve. Time to mark your calendars for April 29th, 2017. That’s the date of the People’s Climate Mobilization, a major march in Washington, D.C., when we will come together with hundreds of thousands of people to reject Trump’s attack on our communities and climate, and push forward with our vision of a clean energy economy that works for all. Sign up to be part of it here, and connect with others near you who will be taking action in the run-up to April. We believe that in this moment of division, turmoil, and fear, it's important to put forward an alternative vision that inspires and connects. If we don't put forward our own vision -- of an economy built on justice and powered by clean, renewable energy -- then we let fossil-fuel-soaked nationalism, xenophobia, and hatred win. We need to show that more people still believe in our shared vision for the future than in Donald Trump's. That's where you come in: The only way this mobilization will work is if it’s driven from the bottom up by people like you. That's why we want to get you involved with the People's Climate Mobilization starting today -- whether you've helped organize a dozen marches before, or if you're a first-time participant.” (People’s Climate Movement)
Don’t sit this one out.