Guest blogger Denis Hayes was national coordinator for the first Earth Day in 1970, and director of the federal Solar Energy Research Institute from 1979 to 1981. He is now president of the Bullitt Foundation and international chair of Earth Day 2010. Find out about the Earth Day big rally in Washington, D.C., as well as other actions you can take, at the Earth Day Network website.
Earth Day Network is organizing a huge event on the Mall in Washington D.C. on April 25. The goal is to demand tough, effective climate legislation and a swift transition away from 19th century energy sources.
"So what?" you may be asking yourself. There have been a lot of climate rallies over the last 25 years and Congress still hasn't managed to pass a law. Why should I come to this one?
Let me count the ways ...
Past climate rallies have generally run from a few dozen people to a couple thousand. On Sunday, April 25, energy and climate activists from New England to the Carolinas will gather together to find new friends and allies at largest climate rally ever. We are coming together to move beyond education; to demand change; and to make it clear there will be political consequences of Congress doesn't act.
Inspiration and direction
You will hear from:
Climate scientists like James Hansen, and Stephen Schneider.
EPA chief (and heroine!) Lisa Jackson and CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley
Cultural leaders like James Cameron (Avatar; Titanic) and Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale; The Blind Assassin)
Top business executives from Siemens, Phillips, UL, Future Friendly, and SunEdison
Top labor leaders, including the President of the AFL-CIO and Secretary of the SEIU.
Progressive activists, including Jesse Jackson, Lydia Camarillo, and Hilary Shelton
Climate policy gurus like Joe Romm, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, and Rafael Fantauzzi
Spiritual leaders, including Rev. Theresa Thames, Rev. Richard Cizik, and Rabbi Warren Stone
Athletes like Dhani Jones, Aaron Peirsol, and Billy Demong
Environmentalists like Bobby Kennedy and Phillipe Cousteau
In between the speakers we will hear from some of the most committed artists in the nation, including Sting, John Legend, The Roots, Willie Colon, Passion Pit, Bob Weir, Jimmy Cliff, Joss Stone, Booker T, The Honor Society, Mavis Staples ...
In 1970, I told huge Earth Day crowds in Washington, DC, Chicago, and New York: "We won't appeal anymore to the conscience of institutions because institutions have no conscience. If we want them to do what is right, we must make them do what is right. We will use proxy fights, lawsuits, demonstration, research, boycotts, and-above all-ballots ... If we let this become just a fad, it will be our last fad."
Earth Day organizers created a Dirty Dozen campaign that made "the environment" a voting issue in the 1970 elections. One of the seven Congressmen we defeated that fall was George Fallon, chairman of the House Public Works Committee: the "pork" committee. THAT got their attention. If Chairman Fallon was vulnerable, everyone in politics was vulnerable.
Over the next three years, despite fierce opposition from the most powerful vested interests in the land, Congress passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and a half-dozen other far-reaching laws that have utterly transformed the way America does business.
Now we must do it again.
What is the goal?
Humanity must swiftly abandon dirty energy sources and switch to safe, clean, decentralized, renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal. The world, led by America, must abandon the appallingly inefficient way it uses energy and swiftly embrace the most efficient new housing, transport, and industrial processes that exist. We Americans must slash our politically risky and economically catastrophic dependence on the oil wealth of nations that don't like us very much.
A necessary-though not sufficient-common denominator is to establish a price on carbon that reflects the costs of climate disruption, blowing the tops off mountains, and acidifying the world's oceans. We must place a firm cap with no loopholes on the amount of carbon fuels we consume each year and ratchet that cap down at a prescribed rate every year in the future until we hit something very close to zero.
Only a federal law can accomplish this goal.
If this were easy, we would have begun a quarter century ago. The junk science, climate-denying interest groups are rich, powerful, and ruthless. But sooner or later they will lose.
Sooner is better
They will lose for the same reason that IBM and Control Data lost to Microsoft, Apple, and Dell. They will lose for the same reason that Ma Bell -- the most powerful monopoly in the world -- lost to cellular upstarts and internet-telephony. They lost because their thinking was anchored in the past instead of envisioning the future
The junk science, climate-disruption-denying interest groups will lose because 19th century answers won't solve 21st century problems.
Come to the Mall
At some point, this climate-disrupting madness has to start to stop. Come to the Mall between the Capitol Building and the White House on Sunday, April 25. Bring your spouse, your parents, your kids, your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers, your congregation, your bowling league. Vote with your bodies on April 25 at the largest climate rally ever.
And put our political leaders on notice that you will vote with your ballot a few months later!
EB reader Lewis Cleverdon has responded to Denis Hayes' article with the following commentary, a draft of which was posted as a comment on Climate Progress
. ~ Facing the 3rd WOP ~ (Window of Opportunity for Precaution)
It's my hope that the ethics of the need for commensurate action on climate will get a really cogent delivery broadcast from the stage on the day - Maybe I'm biased by a British liberal upbringing, but the long-hyped mercenary/self-interest motivations for the conservation of the climate and the ecology (the latter of course including people) seem to me only as durable as the absence of a yet more profitable consumption option. By contrast, the potent ethics of the climate issue are practically virgin territory. In particular, it seems certain that few Americans would wish America to go down in history as having had lead responsibility at the zenith of its power for manifesting the greatest genocide by serial famines that the world has ever seen. Yet equally few Americans seem to have got around to considering this central predictable consequence of "The American Way of Life". It is well past time they, like other 'major' nationalities mimicking such callous folly, were brought to face this reality. An aspect of climate justice which I'd dearly like to hear described to the assembly (but am less than sanguine of the chances owing to its radical and somewhat technical nature) is the necessary strategy review following the closure of the first "window of opportunity for precaution" of resolving global warming solely by suppressing global GHG outputs. [WOP I]. While there are uncertain variables, such as the outputs of the feedbacks and the decline of the natural carbon sinks, the calculation of how that window is now closed is reasonable. We face around 35 years of time-lagged warming 'in the pipeline', reflecting the rise in pollution flows from 1975 to 2010, and thus we are 'aspiring' internationally to a global 50% output cut by 2050 off the 1990 baseline that would not take its full time-lagged effect until 2085. Then there is also the remainder of our emissions after 2050 that is not taken up by the declining natural carbon sinks - without the latters' further decline, the remainder of around 17% would be added to the atmosphere year on year, thus continuing to exacerbate the warming even after 2085. Meanwhile, the interactive positive feedbacks are evidently already gaining momentum and are in sum accelerating, exponentially, year on year toward the point where they would swamp the natural carbon sinks, thereby probably putting mitigation beyond any human capacity. Advancing the international 'aspiration' to a far more radical 98% off 1990 by say 2035 does not resolve the tardiness issue. Alongside the ~35yr time lag for emissions' warming potential to take effect and, presumably, the sinks' likely continued decline (not accounted herein), our declining GHG outputs would continue to add to airborne stocks until around 2027 (with luck the remaining 33% being taken by the sinks). Without accounting the feedbacks' outputs, this implies a peak of the warming from airborne anthro-CO2 somewhere around 2062, (2027+35). The 98% cut would then take full effect around 2070, (2035+35), having left the use of the remaining sinks after the anthro-CO2 peak to help cleanse the atmosphere at up to 1.0 ppmv of CO2 on average per year -- (we have an excess of around 115 ppmv CO2). This advanced 'aspiration' would thus allow the feedbacks' a continued man-made warming for their unfettered acceleration for over 50 years - which is patently untenable. While sufficient airborne carbon could be recovered to restore pre-industrial airborne anthro-CO2 levels late this century, by means of a global emergency program of afforestation (specifically by establishing a gigahectare of native coppice forestry mostly on non-farmland, optimised for carbon recovery via biochar, forest-biofuels and biodiversity), and while this commitment is as necessary for reversing marine acidification as it is for ending global warming, it seems clear that several decades' development will be needed for it to begin having a significant effect on airborne CO2 ppmv. Given that the 'pipeline' warming will still be growing until 2045, and that the same timelag applies to the afforestation's early effect on airborne CO2ppmv (say 2040+35 = 2075), the forestry program is demonstrably a necessary commitment but even in concert with rapidly ending anthro-GHG outputs it too is no longer a sufficient means to provide a timely control of the feedbacks. That was the second window of opportunity for precaution that has now closed. [WOP II]. Just the present worldwide advance of forest dieback and predicable wildfire (a million acres are already dead in British Columbia alone), let alone the arctic methane flows and loss of ice and snow cover, indicates a pretty short third and final window for intervention [WOP III], assuming the point of no return is somewhat before a ~2.5 GTC/yr-equivalent output by the interactive feedbacks that then swamps the sinks. Therefore, while a global afforestation program is a necessary condition for viable strategy, its essential complement is the sufficient and early control of global temperature directly and intentionally, by the most prudent sustainable means of albido enhancement available, until the atmosphere is restored to its natural condition later this century. - Beside the necessary sustainable forestry program, of all the diverse geo-engineering options, the proposed fleet of 300 sea spray-lofting trimarans has my vote for immediate prototype development and testing, as it has yet to generate any cogent published critique decrying sea-trials since its release in 2007. - As I said, this assessment of strategic requirements is both radical and somewhat technical and so not easy to deliver at a demo. Yet it would be a tremendous advance if the Earth Day assembly could hear a lucid outline of the closure of the first window, i.e. that the climate issue can no longer be resolved simply by cutting GHG outputs, however fast it were done. The imperative need for historical emissions having to be recovered is then plain -- - and if not by those who put them there then by whom ? (As a fine old ballad put it: "I had to pay $50 and pick up the garbage .. . ."). I should add that maybe there is some valid refutation of part, parts or all of the analysis above, in which case I'd be very glad to hear it, and thereby avoid campaigning for such a comprehensive strategy alongside ongoing efforts for 'Contraction & Convergence for Recovery' as the requisite negotiating framework for a Treaty of the Atmospheric Commons. If I weren't running a hill farm in the mountains of Wales, I'd be with you at the demo in the flesh, as well as in spirit. Anyone in North America who is even slightly awake to the threat of climate destabilization (and is not tied by other duties) should get there -- (preferably in groups with a well made highly informative banner (aka discussion-multiplier) with really large lettering for e-media to broadcast). Hoping you can mobilize a myriad of young people (as well as their elders), and wishing you the best of luck on the day, regards, Lewis Cleverdon Photo credit: flickr/Southernpixel