The world has been celebrating Earth Day for twenty-nine years now, and since Senator Gaylord Nelson decided America needed a national"teach-in" to help draw focus to the state of the environment, which at the time was in a very sorry state, we have made a great deal of progress. In 1970, air and water quality were at an all time low. Prior to the passing of the Clean Air Act, lead emissions topped 225 million tons, and carbon monoxide emissions totaled 120 million a year. Not good.
Flash forward, and over the course of three decades America has cleaned up it's act, or so it would appear. Granted, we continue to reduce the amount of toxins resulting from the burning of fossil fuels, yet we increase consumption ten fold by embracing a commuter culture dependent on the personal gas guzzler. The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, yet it still takes organizations such as San Diego Bay Keeper to force municipal governments to address polluted runoff. And beach closures are common place.
As you can see I am in a mood. At a time when I should be ecstatic, I'm not. An environmentally friendly California Coastal Commission is now standing between Manchester Resorts and their assault on the residents of Oceanside, a champion of open space is now serving as the Mayor of Encinitas, and the San Diego City Council has made room for seals. So what's the problem?
Earth Day 1999, the last such celebration of the twentieth century, is being marred by a war against the environment, as NATO war planes are raining bombs on the Balkans. And for what? The mainstream propaganda machine is pumping out stories about the evils of a petty thug, from a long line of cruel thugs, even as the supposed good guys are blowing up everything in sight. Fuel depots, trains, refugees, are just the beginning. Have the boys in Washington already forgotten the burning oil fields of Kuwait?
According to Professor Zeferos, an environmental chemist from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the first three days of bombing above Yugoslavia released a large amount of hazardous, toxic, carcinogenic and radioactive substances. The Greek researcher, has also said the bombing in Yugoslavia is a great environmental catastrophe for the entire Balkan region. Add to this the damage done by a forced exodus of refugees, and the strain put on the already shaky infrastructures of surrounding nations.
My question is how can we get our federal government to deal with pressing environmental issues at home, when they are obsessed with sex scandals and international games of Tug-o-war. While Washington has been busy trying to police our sex lives and and family feuds abroad, they have conveniently turned a blind eye to those profiting from the systematic destruction of healthy ecosystems.
Since it's humble beginnings, Earth Day has been a grass roots effort, emanating from communities all over the country. To wait for our elected officials to take the lead would have been suicide. Yet we are not out of the woods. Perhaps pro-environment is going to have to expand it's focus and become anti-war. Earth Day every day is far from a reality. The fact that Bill Clinton is going to make an empty speech in front of some "protected" open space, just irritates the hell out of me.
On April 22nd, as President Clinton declares his commitment to a balanced environment, I will know his sentiments are as false as Slobodon Milosevic's calls for negotiations, and as hollow as the eyes of a Kosovoian child. As I blow out the candles on my Earth Day Cake, I am going to wish for peace. It's the least I can do.