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#EarthDay is over for another year — so what do we do now?

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This post is a little different.  It was sent to me by Bruce Miller, A guy I roomed with many years ago when we were both in grad school in Honolulu.  Following Honolulu, Bruce went to New Hampshire for his doctorate while I went to Australia and our lives diverged.  Bruce went on to develop and lead the Extension Program for New Hampshire-Maine Sea Grant for several years before finding his way back to Honolulu as Extension Director for Hawaii/Pacific Sea Grant, where he spent most of his career.

In 1970, an idealistic graduate student, Bruce was one of the two dozen or so who began the journey with Denis Hayes to build the first Earth Day on campuses across the USA.  He remained an active member as that movement grew until it eventually became worldwide in 1990.  Now retired, Bruce still reminds his friends every Earth Day that there is much to do.

Perhaps because I know Bruce, perhaps because his sincerity oozes through the words, I found what follows particularly inspiring.  It popped up in my in-box yesterday and I decided it needed to be shared.  Bruce is clearly writing for a US audience and his suggestions at the end deal specifically with the US political system.  But the need to strengthen liberal democracy is not only an American need.  Around the world, democracy is under threat from the pandering of populism to the disturbingly fascist far right philosophy that seems to find fertile ground across social media.

We all need to vote, and put environment at the top of our priorities when voting.  We need to get politically active in other ways as well – holding our elected officials accountable, and resisting the erosion of norms of decency and honesty.  The US may have a particular set of political problems right now, but does the world get better if the EU is weakened by a rise of right-wing populism in many EU countries?  Do Canadian and Australian governments get a free pass to continue (and even increase subsidies to their oil and gas industries, because they have also made modest moves to contain climate change? 

With the release this month of the IPCC’s latest report, the UN’s Secretary General, António Guterres, has declared,

“This is a climate emergency, [wealthy economies and corporations] are not just turning a blind eye; they are adding fuel to the flames. They are choking our planet, based on their vested interests and historic investments in fossil fuels, when cheaper, renewable solutions provide green jobs, energy security and greater price stability.”

At such a time can any of us be satisfied to make token efforts and carry on with our planet-destroying ways.  It’s good to be optimistic, and see the occasional steps in the right direction as worth shouting out about.  It is foolish to use our optimism that we have the power to change as a way of patting ourselves on the back and ignoring the gathering storm.

I give you Bruce Miller’s comments:

Earth Day 2022

Good morning friends. It’s Earth Day 2022. I realize this post is long, but it is also important, and I would appreciate it if you would find the time to read it, and if you find it worthwhile, share it. And then the willingness to take some needed action in the months ahead.

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It’s  Earth Day 2022, and here we all are, 52 years after the first Earth Day in 1970. That makes it 54 years since Paul Ehrlich wrote the Population Bomb, and warned us that the earth’s carrying capacity is around 2 billion, and 60 years since Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, the book that alerted us to the increasing destruction of our environment, and inspired our generation of activists to rally to protect it.  

 And here we all are, all 8 billion of us sucking off the richness of our planet. Here we are, 52 years since this once young and idealistic activist guy joined hands with a lot of other young activist types of my generation to say “Come on people, smile on your brother, everybody get together,”  for it’s time…no, it’s way past time…for us to wake up…look around.. and put some serious energy into doing what it takes to preserve a livable environment for ourselves, our families, and our friends well into the future.

And many of us did put a lot of energy to the cause, and since that first earth day there has been a lot of talk, and some effective action, but what has it really accomplished? A population that grew from 3.87 billion in 1970 to 7.96 billion today….4 times what Ehrlich said is sustainable. Increasing depletion of natural resources. Increasing dangers of irreversible climate change and sea level rise. Declining species diversity and lower fisheries catches. More fires and less consistent rainfall. And a long predicted global pandemic.

And in the face of these realities, what is our response? While some of us care, the vast majority of people are more plugged into trivia such as their Twitter posts, their favorite TV program, the growth of their IRA, or whether or not it’s OK to say gay in front of kids.

I know many of us care about the future for our kids and grandkids. But as much as we think we are watching out for their futures by putting our condo in Florida or our home in Palm Springs in a trust for them, it won’t be of much help when real estate crashes in Florida as the sea slowly takes control, or in Palm Springs when the southwest runs dry.

While we might not like to hear this, we are gliding down a track that isn’t going to give us, and isn’t going to give those we care for, the future we want them to enjoy. And we do not have the luxury of time. Strong and immediate science-based legislation is desperately needed to effectively address climate change, reverse the decline in species diversity, protect our wild and agricultural lands, and get our exploding population under control.  This kind of action will only happen through a change of governmental priorities.

I suggest that one of the best things each of us can do is to assume personal responsibility for helping to get us out of this mess we find ourselves mired in. How can we do that?  How about making a commitment to take direct action in the weeks ahead, not only by doing small local activities, but more importantly through political action that is geared toward the big picture. We need action that will help ensure a livable environment into the future for us, for our kids, and for generations to come?

To get that action, we have to move our country back onto a solidly progressive social and environmental track by electing state and federal legislators who care more about society and the environment than they do about money. That will only happen through political change….one vote and one election at a time. Between now and November 2022, we need to do whatever we can so that we will wake up the morning after election day and joyfully find that we finally have solidly progressive control of local, state, and federal government.

We can most effectively ensure this by devoting some of our time between now and November 2022 to helping get out the vote, and especially the youth vote, for progressive candidates at the state level and a progressive congress in Washington.

What specifically can we all do?

 1. Make a personal commitment to register, and then to vote, at every regular and special local, state, and national election that occurs between now and November 2022. And in order to ensure that you can actually vote, this has to include making sure before election day that you are on the eligible list in your voting precinct.

2. Commit to taking responsibility between now and November 2022 for discussing the issues we are facing with your immediate family and friends, and for explaining to them the importance of the vote. Encourage and support them to register and vote in every regular and special election, and if needed, be willing to help them.

3. Also take an opportunity to reconnect with friends that you have all across the country, and commit to calling one or two of them each month to reconnect and also to discuss with them the issues and the importance of voting. Urge them not only to register and vote themselves, but to also contact their friends to do the same.

3. Post articles on your Facebook page about issues, and the need to network and get out the vote.

4. Give money or contribute time to organizations whose mission is to get out the vote.

This is not difficult to do, and it actually can be a great way to reconnect with friends, but what might stop us from taking action? Oh, I know, some of us are already saying we are way too busy. We all have lots of important things to do. But reflect on how much time you spend looking at TV or a computer/phone screen. What if each of us only spent even 1 or 2 of those hours each week working on something that will help take back our country and deal with the issues that will guarantee a future for all of us?

If we succeed at this, we will no longer need to spend our time and resources fighting to hold back conservative assaults on our rights and values, and we can return to supporting progressive activities that will move us forward in an environmentally and socially positive direction.

On this Earth Day 2022, please commit to taking action. Do it for yourselves. Do it for your family and friends. And do it for future generations to come, and for this beautiful planet that we all share.

Can we really let short-term profits or short-term political wins prevent us from taking care of the only home we have? Photo from Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center. ISS042-E-294596. https://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/

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