Remembering the Purpose of Earth Day


I celebrated the 45th Earth Day with the Pacifica Beach Coalition, a group that collects trash and restores habitat

Forty-five years ago, rivers were on fire because of industrial pollution. Today our entire planet is on fire because of carbon pollution. 2014 was the hottest year on record. Temperatures over land and ocean surfaces were the highest since scientists started recording them in 1880. Strange weather has made headlines around the world. We’ve seen polar vortices and tornadoes in the Midwest, massive snow storms on the East Coast, rapidly shrinking sea ice at the North and South poles, record hurricanes and cyclones over the Pacific and Indian Oceans, flooding in Asia, and extreme droughts in Africa and right here in the western states of the U.S. Scientists call this the “new normal” – in a warming world we have to expect the unexpected.

But even in California, where we are used to a dry climate, we didn’t expect four consecutive years of exceptional drought. Just a few weeks ago on April 1, Governor Jerry Brown announced the lowest snowpack on record in California. He stood on a brown meadow in the Sierras instead of in five feet of snow.

Forty-five years ago, people were sick and dying from air and water pollution. They were fed up. Millions of protesters took to the streets to express their appreciation of the planet and demand its protection. One of the co-founders of Earth Day, then Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey, says the movement resulted in the defeat of corrupt politicians and spurred a quarter century of bipartisan environmental legislation.

In 1970, industrialization was at its height. Garbage was dumped into rivers and bays, sewage flowed straight into the ocean, toxic chemicals from factories and leaded gasoline exhaust from cars were fouling the air. The Cuyahoga River —> Read More