Just once a year, for the last 47 years, we as a nation have taken a day to pause and reflect on how much we love this planet. For those who were not around and up on your hind legs at the time, the first “Earth Day” was a time to remember. Prior to that year US businesses had been taking a toxic hay-ride with the planet for – actually forever.
The founding of this nation was propelled by a continent that had not yet been pillaged. There was so much money to be made – mostly by over-harvesting the natural resources and selling everything down the river (and dumping any garbage that couldn’t be sold into that river).
This was noticed early on by one of the first popular environmental writers, James Fennimore Cooper. His book “The Pioneers” (1823) recounts the exploitation and development of the Lake Oswego area, comparing the dynamite fishing, “ends justify the means” Sheriff Richard “Dick” Jones, with his foil, the wise and nature-informed native American, Leatherstockings.
Cooper was very concerned about the disappearance of Nature at the hands of industry (and perhaps guilty of the plundered wealth accumulated by his land-developer and speculator father). James’ writing was steeped in his concern for Nature; but reflecting our own brief “Earth Day” attention span, Cooper also stated that for every page of nature expository, he needed to write four pages of adventure.
While the wholesale destruction of a Nature was running at a pace in the early 19th century, the discovery of fossil fuel literally poured gas on the flames. And while the processing of petroleum fertilized and fueled the “green revolution,” it also allowed for a warlock’s brew of toxic chemicals and “disposable” products.
In 1970 we had not yet foreseen the plastic choking of our ocean, lakes, and waterways. But with the burning of the Cuyahoga River, the nasty Santa Barbara Oil Spill, the cancerous “Stringfellow Acid Pits,” and just a glimpse into any stream or river that flowed through any American city, it had become painfully clear that what was good for industry was NOT good for America.
In response, our Federal Government under the Nixon Administration crafted a raft of environmental laws that pulled us out of a toxic tailspin: The Environmental Protection Agency was founded, and the Clean Water, Clean Air, National Environmental Policy Act, and the Endangered Species Acts were all passed almost unanimously with bi-partisan support.
How soon we forget.
It is no mystery that Industry has been pulling at the fetters of regulation from the moment they were reined in. Unfortunately, on this Earth Day in 2017, all of the red lights are flashing on the dashboard again. Hopefully the current assault on our global habitat will be enough to wake us out of a slumber and we will not need more Alaskan Pipeline Leaks, Cancer Alleys, BP Deepwater Horizon disasters, and lead-poisoned drinking water in East Chicago to remind us that what is good for Industry is NOT good for America.
Our wish for you on this Earth Day is that you will make your voice clear and concise; that your love of our planet Earth – along with the millions of other co-inhabitants who will be expressing this love, will overcome the blindness that is tearing away at this beautiful sanctuary we call home.