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Earth day celebrates this
wonderful planet that is our home.
Today is its 40th anniversary, celebrated world-wide, the
inspiring off spring of Senator Gaylord Nelson and some students back in 1970. It is a wonderful corrective to the two
forms of moral and intellectual insanity, one religious and one secular, that
sees our proper role as lords and masters of “creation.” Earth day is one of
the most wonderful symbolic legacies from “the Sixties” and one of the most
despised by the corporate sociopaths and religious thugs that dominate our
Earth day symbolizes Americans,
some of us, beginning to consider this land our home rather than simply a real
estate investment or monument to our ego.
It is a place we love and within which we find renewal and meaning. And we feel blessed to live here on
Turtle Island, and want to take care of it, to
give back some of what we have received.
Earth Day marked recognition by
many of us of a profound cultural shift, one challenged today by the forces of
an insensate right and corporate sociopaths, but still burning brightly in the
harts of many many millions. It
was a shift away from the ideal of domination to one of care taking.
Today it is hard to imagine and
few who were around then much remember the schemes to treat our planet as our
stone on which elites would carve the sculptures of their choice. There were serious schemes to cut the
tops off the hills around San Francisco Bay, and fill the Bay to
build subdivisions where today there is water. Or the serious proposal to detonate an atomic bomb under
part of Panama, in order to build instantaneously a sea level canal. Or the plans to dam the Yukon River to
make the biggest reservoir of all time. America then was as drunk on the power of technology as it is today on the
power of violence.
Since Earth day’s inception
America and much of the world have mostly given up such technological
hubris. Even better, we have done
a few things moderately well. Our
protection of wildlands and endangered species on land is better than many had
hoped, although the devastation of the Everglades to line the pockets of
corporate agriculture and the “development” industry is continuing and the rape
of West Virginia continues, the better to line the pockets of corporate
thugs. But on balance, we’ve made
Very importantly, efforts to
protect and care for our home extend to local regions. Here is Sonoma County, California, the
people voted to for a small sales tax increase to raise money for protecting
open space. The result has been spectacular, and hopefully other places
will follow suit. From Big Sur on the West coast to Maine, land trusts have blossomed, enabling local people to protect
their environment free from the corruptions that so often impede political
action. Some are huge, like many
of the Nature Conservancy’s efforts, others are small and local, growing from
the intimate love of place that grows from close proximity. Here in Sonoma County we have just won
a huge victory through this approach.
There is a vigorous and growing
market for organic and locally produced foods. Even Safeway and other national chains are selling organic
vegetables. There is a growing
market for relatively humanely raised meat. Perhaps best of all, farmers’ markets have appeared or
reappeared over much of our country.
While “conservatives” and their corporate allies have stalled most
efforts at federal protection, local efforts are often strong and healthy.
Green energy has been developed
along a wide range of fronts, with improvements in technology occurring
continually. Other developments in
which we can take hope include concrete that uses up CO2 from the atmosphere and green buildings that may
ultimately produce more energy than they consume.
In most respects air in the US is
far cleaner than it used to be.
When I first visited the SF Bay Area, my eyes burned when I visited San
Jose and you could not see San Francisco from Berkeley on the frequent late
summer and fall smoggy days. Fall became my least favorite season when I first
lived in Berkeley. For a long time
neither has been the case in my experience.
Almost all of these developments
have been because of the direct or indirect action of government with all of
its problems, by the way. Land
trusts are the chief exception.
Yet hanging over us all is the
threat of global warming and the depletion and pollution of our oceans. These
are world wide problems that would cost considerable money to resolve and
inconvenience the corporate and oligarchic elite that grows fat and sleek on
others’ creativity and work.
In addition, the nihilistic
growth of the American Right threatens the well being of all these
achievements. The lethal
combination of a lust for power, lust for wealth, emptiness of heart, and
worship of a demon god is the threat of our time, our generation’s equivalent
of communism or fascism, only much closer to home. So while we can justly celebrate the many achievements since
that time, much work remains to be done. But the achievements since 1970 can inspire us as to what is
possible in the cultural renewal of our country, and help give us the inner
strength to keep pushing towards a wider recognition and treasuring of the
beautiful and sacred place where we make our home.