Humans are the most destructive and dangerous species on the planet. And despite our putative “superior intelligence,” we also would have to qualify as one of the stupidest. We quite literally represent a threat to the survival of every other species on the planet. But no one seems to stop and consider this. The only thing that matters to us is ourselves.
Fox News commentator John Stossel says that rather than observing Earth Day this year, he plans to celebrate “human achievement day” instead. One wonders if the White House, where the Trump administration has cut the EPA budget by 31 percent, plans to do likewise.
Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970–47 years ago. Since then, the human population of the planet has doubled, while the wildlife population has declined by roughly half. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, we are now undergoing an “extinction crisis,” with literally dozens of animal species going extinct every day.
The Trump administration has called for a cut in the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency from $8.1 billion down to $5.7 billion. In fact, Trump’s EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, seems philosophically opposed to the very mission of the agency he has been chosen to head, having described himself as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”
- A 60 percent reduction in the agency’s enforcement programs against polluters–from $10 million down to $4 million;
- A $400 million cut–virtually the entire amount budgeted–in regional cleanup measures for such areas as the Gulf of Mexico or the Great Lakes where pollution has been especially problematic;
- A 45 percent cut in the cleanup of “Superfund” sites–where pollutants include hazardous substances that can adversely effect health–from $404 million down to $221 million (the Superfund program additionally allows the EPA to identify polluters and compel them to pay for the cleanup–in which case it can actually save taxpayers money);
- A drastic cut–from from $7.5 million down to $445,000–in EPA research into endocrine disrupters, i.e. chemicals–found in pesticides and a variety of other products–that can interfere with the body’s reproductive and developmental systems;
- Cuts in environmental education–spending on this currently is at $8.7 million annually; under Trump’s budget cuts, the figure would be reduced to $555,000.
In addition to the above, Trump has also called for cuts in spending on climate research, these cuts to take place across multiple federal agencies.
By contrast, the president has proposed a $54 billion increase in the military budget.
The planet we live on is a miracle of God. If we destroy it, we will destroy ourselves in the process.
Recently, Nahida Izzat put up a post entitled “Our Adored Planet” on her Poetry for Palestine blog. The post includes video of a rather stunning circular array of waterfalls that can be found in Vietnam, as well as a brief poem written by Nahida. You can check it out here. It’s definitely worth looking at.
As I said above, the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970. Below is a bit of the history of how it all got started (source ).
Each year, Earth Day—April 22—marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.
The height of counterculture in the United States, 1970 brought the death of Jimi Hendrix, the last Beatles album, and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” War raged in Vietnam and students nationwide overwhelmingly opposed it.
At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. “Environment” was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news.
Although mainstream America largely remained oblivious to environmental concerns, the stage had been set for change by the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962. The book represented a watershed moment, selling more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries, and beginning to raise public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and links between pollution and public health.
Earth Day 1970 gave voice to that emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns on the front page.
The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair; and recruited Denis Hayes from Harvard as national coordinator. Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land. April 22, falling between Spring Break and Final Exams, was selected as the date.
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.
Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. “It was a gamble,” Gaylord recalled, “but it worked.”