5

Rich Whitney on Earth Day’s 40th Anniversary

Thoughts on the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day
By Rich Whitney, Green Party candidate for Governor

The 40th Anniversary of Earth Day reminds me of the very first Earth Day, in 1970. I was a high-school Freshman that year and I remember an upper-classman named Billy Barth who recruited some of us to go out to a local stream and pick up litter and trash that had been dumped into it.  The problem was very visible and easily identifiable and the solution was equally clear. We just went out, did some work and solved the problem.

A lot of things haven’t changed much since 1970: The principal cause of the contamination arises from the fact that most industrial activity is conducted by large-scale corporations that, in the absence of regulatory or other controls, naturally find it more profitable to dump contaminants into our air, water, and land, rather than incur the expense of controlling or safely disposing of the contaminants. Giant agribusiness conglomerates find it more profitable to overuse pesticides and herbicides in agriculture, than to use more environmentally friendly practices. And the public policy changes needed to curb such abusive practices are frustratingly slow in coming, with limited victories coming only after years of concerted public pressure. Why? Because the same giant multinational corporations that benefit the most from these practices also bankroll the campaigns of the candidates that the people rely upon to regulate or prohibit environmental contamination.

What has changed since 1970 is that the most menacing environmental threats are much more insidious and hidden from plain sight than the highly visible forms of air and water pollution that most concerned us at that time. The threat of invisible nuclear radiation was there, of course, and the threats posed by pesticides and herbicides were subtle. But today those threats are joined by new invisible threats: GMO foods, endocrine disrupters, and above all, greenhouse gases, which now threaten the balance of nature on a global scale.

The environmental movement continues to fight the good fight against these new, more subtle and more challenging threats. Corporate control over the political process has made it more and more difficult to win victories, as the giant corporate and banking interests have tightened their grip on both the Democratic and Republican parties. Environmental groups keep banging their heads against the proverbial brick wall, only occasionally chipping off a bit of progress.

Despite all of these disturbing and ominous trends, however, there are reasons to have hope that we – humankind  – may yet prevail in our struggle against our own most destructive tendencies, and create a clean, healthy, sustainable environment that comports with the natural world we inhabited when our species first emerged.

For one thing, environmental consciousness has become much more mainstream and predominant today than it was in 1970. Environmentalists still get bashed from time to time but environmentalism, and the notion that we must safeguard our natural environment from further degradation, is not a fringe concern any more.

Second, the realities of the end of the era of cheap oil has brought about the realization that we, as a society, must make profound changes in the way we obtain and use energy and other resources – and that environmental sense also makes economic sense. A corollary to this is that the labor movement, and workers generally, are increasingly seeing environmentalists as their allies instead of perceiving them as their enemy.

Finally, a new political force is emerging to help win the struggle for a healthy and sustainable environment: The Green Party. An international movement for political change, Green parties in Europe and throughout the world have already had a substantial impact on public policy and helped effect positive changes in the struggle to establish sustainable agriculture, promote renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transportation. Here in the United States, our “winner take all” electoral system has kept us behind the curve, but even here, we are making progress, and nowhere more than right here in Illinois.

In the Green Party, the labor movement, the environmental movement and the more forward-thinking and productive sectors of the economy have a natural ally. A party whose foundational principles include the values of ecological wisdom, grassroots democracy, social justice and community-based economics, the Green Party refuses corporate campaign contributions as a matter of principle. We are determined to build genuine government of, by and for the people. We can’t be bought and we won’t sell out.

Thus, instead of continuing to batter their heads against the proverbial brick wall, the environmental movement, the labor movement and all the other popular movements that are constantly thwarted by these institutions known as the Democratic and Republican parties – such as the peace movement, the civil rights and civil liberties and social justice movements – now have the potential to directly influence public policy. The real solution has always been an obvious one: Instead of protesting the repeatedly bad results of government policy from the outside, these movements need to be on the inside, getting into government in order to directly change what government does.

To do that requires getting movement people elected to office. That requires having an organization that can accomplish that – a political party. That party has been formed – the Green Party.

Now all the movement groups have to do is support their party and get their people elected.  It’s that simple.

It’s a lot like seeing a lot of trash dumped in a stream. What do you do? Put on some boots, wade in where you need to go, and pick it up. Problem solved.

http://www.whitneyforgov.org/thoughts-on-the-40th-anniversary-of-earth-day

Walter

I'm a member of the Illinois Green Party.

5 Comments

  1. Whoa!

    So, is this the new format for the web-site?

    Wow!

    I am not sure if I like it…mostly because I don’t like change.

    Hmmmm….but, I have to admit, that graphic with the green lantern is awesome.

    And, this does look kind of professional and serious.

    Hmmmm…I think I like it.

    Earth Day was a good day to launch it, too.

  2. Kimberly,

    Thank you! It is a work in progress. Change was overdue in this case, but other matters (like running for office) had taken precedence. We are still working on the site and we may see more change coming in the near future.

    Ron

  3. “Despite all of these disturbing and ominous trends, however, there are reasons to have hope that we – humankind – may yet prevail in our struggle against our own most destructive tendencies, and create a clean, healthy, sustainable environment that comports with the natural world we inhabited when our species first emerged.

    For one thing, environmental consciousness has become much more mainstream and predominant today than it was in 1970. Environmentalists still get bashed from time to time but environmentalism, and the notion that we must safeguard our natural environment from further degradation, is not a fringe concern any more.

    Second, the realities of the end of the era of cheap oil has brought about the realization that we, as a society, must make profound changes in the way we obtain and use energy and other resources – and that environmental sense also makes economic sense. A corollary to this is that the labor movement, and workers generally, are increasingly seeing environmentalists as their allies instead of perceiving them as their enemy.”

    This, above, says it all. People not government were the solution. Change society and not the laws. There is a cause and effect correlation with cronyism and bad environmental practices, and that is mentioned in the piece but what this cronyism reaches further than the mere “bankroll-lobby-scratch back” chain.

    Most people don’t realize the long history of statist oil and coal. I say statist because it was crony capitalism and not “free markets” that promoted oil and coals with coercive protection and even war.

    If we had stopped subsidizing oil and coal or any energy for that matter, the real winner most likely would have been solar and wind. Even now crony statist capitalism is trying to co-opt solar and use it to adapt to the coal based “GRID” to keep us in the matrix. I recently did a paper on solar power and after research and an interview was able to show that it is much cheaper to self supply power in a custom home for modest standalone homes than it is to meet grid compliance. They are trying to sell us the idea that we don’t need to supply 100% of our own energy; we can partially offset and maybe hope for a refund from Net Metering. Yeah right.

    Google “Who killed the electric car”

    Now it is “Who Killed Solar”

    BTW – I am a Green Libertarian and follow Kevin Carson Blogs. My dream party would be a grassroots green party through a libertarian Benjamin Tucker lens. Kevin Carson is one of those bloggers who is able to show how the state has put people in power and I recommend reading his Mutualist blogs for a good start in this direction.

  4. “People not government were the solution.”

    Actually, people used the government to provide the solutions. The Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and EPA did a lot to clean up the environment from its sorry state in the ’50s and ’60s. I agree with green libertarians, as would Greens in general, that government is not always a positive force in ecological matters, especially when it is controlled by corporate-sponsored parties and politicians. The solution is to empower people to use democratic government as a means to protecting the environment and public health.

  5. I posted as the libertarian anonymous…

    You are right about the clean air act but research the beginnings of Earth Day with Gaylord Nelson. He got Kennedy in 1963 to do an 11 day tour NOT to promote legislation but to promote free market solutions and awareness. The teach ins and awareness tours were all grassroots and all voluntary and it was those 8 years that culminated in the 1970 founding of a voluntary observation of Earth Day. Business was already changing under public scrutiny and pressure. Government merely co-opted the Earth Day movement and took credit for it.

    But I am not here to debate but here to see if we can form a movement to mesh ideas for a new political alternative. A union of the Libertarian and Green parties into a new party would offer a brand new choice that is outside the tired Left-Right false choice paradigm.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.