It made sense to me two weeks ago to write an impassioned column on Earth Day. Hell, four months back, when I was first tasked with the challenge of co-organizing a killer of a celebration around Earth Day 2010, I envisioned huge media fanfare, tens of thousands of citizens coming out, all this teaching and learning happening, and unstoppable momentum by our city, county and business elite to go “green.”
One idea I proposed was to set up a softball (painted like Mother Earth) dunking machine (the receptacle being a huge green toilet filled with garbage, plastic, gunk) whereby any taker ($20 for three “earth” pitches going toward some environmental project) could dunk a global warming denier or delayer, global cooling aficionado or flat-Earther into the toxic muck.
I was hoping for the retrograde fear-mongering Tea Partiers and minutemen militia to show up at our Earth Day for a little physics-geology-natural history 101 remediation, off in some alleyway behind the Main Market.
Instead, a cacophony of decommissioned upright pianos destined for waste to “energy” incineration, a discordant polytonal tsunami of sound, came from the parking lot between the Rocket and the co-op, thanks to SFCC’s art department’s gurus.
It’s not that we have to look hard for anti-science, climate-change-debunking folk here in Spokane — the kind that shuffle up to a secessionist meeting with Butch Otter, guv of Idaho, spewing paranoia and illogic. You know, the kind who smirk at the ice flow experts cataloguing huge recession of ice at both poles and hundreds of glaciers; who scoff at oceanographers who know what acidification of oceans does to marine and terrestrial ecosystems; and who attack experts like UW’s Peter Ward for penning such books as Under a Green Sky, which foretells a big, bad scenario coming from all that methane and CO2 we’re spewing, a 100 times more than during the Permian volcanic age 250 million years past.
Here’s what Spokane did this Earth Day — we closed down Main Street for 14 hours; we got six dozen groups representing a diverse stream of environmental and social justice concerns answering questions and putting up hands-on Earth Day exhibits; music was performed inside and outside by musicians who jammed for a pittance; there was the heralding in of the Children of the Sun Saturday with kids dressed up and drumming loudly during the Procession of the Species; and parents and singles, along with juniors, made blue bird houses (300 of them, donated by Kohl’s).
There were literally hundreds of Earth ideas popping up around Main, and the food was good, the dancing heartfelt, and the message clear: Spokane has ecological and environmental workers, and they aren’t going away.
It was fitting that both Richard Rush and Todd Mielke, of the city and county, respectively, read Earth Day/Earth Week proclamations: two very diametrically opposed politicians joining with our Earth Team to read some pretty gutsy stuff about preserving the environment, setting stronger transportation challenges, lowering carbon footprints, protecting water and developing better smart city-New Urbanism projects throughout the county. Food, air, water, people and animals were embedded in those proclamations.
While listening to one citizen pining in at the County Commissioners’ meeting, I knew then that Earth Day is about empowerment and action, not about what the media does or does not do in its false balancing of the news. One fellow spoke to Commissioner Mark Richard and Mielke about how the Clean Air Advisory Board should be disbanded because, gulp, the Board has implemented some burn ban restrictions in Spokane County.
Yes, I return to the press’s failure by being absent at most Earth Days, that is, unless a cadre of loud-mouthed, gun-toting flailing folk come out and start burning Al Gore in effigy or chopping up a stuffed polar bear.
The entire 40 years of my work in journalism, education, activism and the environment, all over the globe, came to a crystallized head at that county meeting as I accepted the proclamation for thousands of dedicated Earth scouts. Mr. Richard had something in his craw as he listened to the progressive words of the document.
He wanted it made clear that he supports transportation alternatives and other initiatives that can be tracked economically, but he threw in the caveat that he does not buy into global warming science.
I informed him of the May 4 talk at Spokane Community College, where a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist could take him through the science of how humans’ role in ocean acidification is more than verifiable. I encouraged Richard to head out to another climate change-themed talk, this one by Diet for a Hot Planet’s Anna Lappe. Finally, I suggested that he consult the Post Carbon Institute’s working group helping communities re-code so they can adapt to global warming changes.
It was at that moment when I knew my work on save-the-whale and stop-coral-reef-dredging-bycruise-ship-anchors campaigns wasn’t done.
The media, politicians and business community are the last to really understand why we have Earth Day.
Dr. Richard Feely of NOAA and the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory will speak on ocean acidification at 7 pm, Tuesday, May 4, at SCC’s Lair Auditorium, Building 6.