Celebrating Earth Day (While there’s still time)

earth-day-final-714896.gif April 22 is Earth Day, so it seems appropriate to take a moment to publicly celebrate that we still have an Earth to honor, and to wonder aloud what we have to do to keep Her. While Kurt Vonnegut sadly is no longer around to help us ponder the question, perhaps we can take his warning from his work, Cold Turkey: “Here's what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey,” and start to do something, now, to ensure we have a reason to celebrate Earth Day for centuries to come…

For a very informative discourse on just how to do this, a must-read is Thomas Friedman’s recent article in the New York Times, “The Power of Green.” Friedman, who says he wants to “rename ‘green’ as…geostrategic, geoeconomic, capitalistic and patriotic,” outlines ways that the United States can take a global leadership position to literally “shift our country, and eventually the world, to a largely emissions-free energy infrastructure over the next 50 years.” The good news, according to Friedman’s article, is that this is actually possible. The scary news is, we have to start now, and we don’t have time to take baby steps.

While most of us won’t be building nuclear power plants as an alternative to fossil fuels, we all do have the ability to take responsibility for the CO2 emissions that we create. And to reduce them. If you don’t know where to start, check out the Earth Day Network website for lots of great suggestions. For example, did you know that if people in the U.S. adopted energy-efficient lighting “would save consumers and businesses approximately $18 billion annually on electricity bills? Annual energy demand for lighting would be reduced by the equivalent of what is generated by thirty nuclear power plants or up to 80 coal burning power plants. Over 158 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions and 5,700 pounds of airborne mercury emissions would be eliminated.” Wow—just for doing away with incandescent light bulbs!

But saving the Earth (and Earth Day!) is going to take much more than switching lightbulbs. We must all be ready and willing to pay the true costs of our addiction to fossil fuel. Friedman puts it bluntly: “The only way to stimulate the scale of sustained investment in research and development of non-CO2 emitting power at the China price is if the developed countries, who can afford to do so, force their people to pay the full climate, economic and geopolitical costs of using gasoline and dirty coal. Those countries that have signed the Kyoto Protocol are starting to do that. But America is not.” If we can’t get our President to sign the Kyoto Protocol, we can elect governors (hello, Arnold) who will “set their own energy standards and reap the benefits for their states." And we can each commit to a personal plan for doing our part to save the Earth. Please start today.

Caroline Heine

Posted at 6:00 AM, Apr 20, 2007 in Environment | Permalink | Comments (1)


Here, here. Just saw hundreds of kids marching through my Park Slope neighborhood yelling excitedly about "green, green, green." It's pretty obvious these kids won't settle for the same old, same old. Time for us to catch up with them!

Posted by: Susan Herr