Saturday, April 23, 2005

Did you miss Earth Day?

Earth Day happened this past week. But there didn't seem to be a heck of a lot of fanfare around it, despite the growing uncertainty over the health of our planet. In the Globe and Mail on Saturday, Ken Wiwa has a good column that talks about Earth Day, and what it's become. (You may or may not be able to read the column, depending on whether you have an "Insiders'" subscription.) Here's a bit of what he had to say:

The disturbing thing is that a day founded in the genuine desire to relocate the heart and spirit of the American dream to a more globally aware, environmentally sensitive place is being co-opted in a depressingly familiar tale of cynical manipulation, politics and commerce.

How do you swallow the optics of a U.S. president using the occasion of Earth Day to promote his militarized vision of global security? Or the rhetoric of U.S. Army Earth Day? Yes — U.S. Army Earth Day really does exist. Its slogan, "Sustaining the Environment for a Secure Future," adorns its 2005 Earth Day poster depicting a soldier, armed to the teeth, scoping the planet through his binoculars.

If that scares the bejesus out of you, then stay away from the U.S. Congress. It's currently debating President George Bush's controversial energy bill. On the eve of Earth Day, the House rejected a proposal, by a 254-177 vote, to increase the fuel efficiency of automobiles.

President Bush and his army may insist that rolling back green legislation is enhancing life on Earth. But I prefer to be scaremongered by studies such as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a report funded by the United Nations, the World Bank, and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others. The four-year study done in 95 countries by 1,300 scientists and experts recently concluded that humans are degrading 60 per cent of the Earth's ecosystem services, such as fresh water, and have had a hand in changing climates. The report concludes that these activities are releasing excess greenhouse gasses, draining underground aquifers, overharvesting forests and oceans, and continuing to dump pollution into them.

But as is usually the case with Wiwa, he ends with a bit of optimism.

He tells us that he was in the US this past week to attend the Goldman Prize, which is awarded annually to six grassroots environmentalists from six regions of the world:
If you're depressed that Earth Day appears, like everything else, to have been co-opted, then take the time to find out about the Goldman Award winners — people such as Kaisha Atakhanova, who is leading the campaign to reduce nuclear pollution in Kazakhstan; Stephanie Roth, for leading protests against a proposed gold and silver mine in Romania and Haitian agronomist Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, who faced death threats to teach his people sustainable agriculture. Their stories are the ones we should be celebrating on Earth Day every year.

Good advice. Go read the stories for yourself...and celebrate.

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