Sunday, April 12, 2009

Earth Day: Strange Days Through The Years?

Ever since everyone around the world began celebrating Earth Day as a show of concern for the world environment, has it been more rhetoric than action?

By: Ringo Bones

Ever since its start in America back in April 22, 1970, the annual observance of Earth Day – which has since become a global phenomena – was always seen by the skeptical as a prime example of an exercise in futility. After all, what good does it accomplish if citizens recycle and adopt a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle while their elected officials are “beholden” by the highly-polluting conglomerates who are empowered to keep their environmentally destructive industries as long as the government gets some of the profits.

Although the growing environmental awareness since that fateful day back in 1970 eventually prompted then US president Richard M. Nixon to sign the Clean Water Act of 1972. But the clouds of speculation hangs on whether his adoption of a “green conscience” was merely a reflection of his guilt of doing a bad job while serving as the leader of the free world has always been a subject of speculation. But all things considered, is our annual Earth Day celebrations that had came before only serve to highlight the uneasy relationship between those in power and the growing cadre of the environmentally-aware multitude?

Our annual observance of Earth Day did manage to get across the message of environmental awareness through the years. Throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, news about the extent of illegal toxic waste dumps and the resulting groundwater and wetland contamination did manage to get printed on the front page – if not headline status. As opposed to being relegated to an obscure column on page 26. News about finding ways to efficiently harness renewable energy sources and finding alternatives to greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuel-burning energy sources started to be seen as factual progress in science, rather than mere science fiction stories published by the liberal press. So too does the search for less dangerous alternatives to our current nuclear fission power plants.

While the start of the 1990s did hold promise when then US president George H.W. Bush – or President Bush Senior – signed the Executive Ban on crude oil exploration on the continental United States, which provided both incentive and urgency to search for more environmentally friendly alternatives to crude oil - thus proving that the US Government is not “beholden” to the crude oil lobby back then. Add to that the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm which highlighted the high cost of America’s over-dependence on imported crude oil not only in environmental terms, but also politically as well.

But it all went downhill when the Republican Party managed to gain control of US legislature in a 1995 mid-term election. The “Think globally, act locally” mantra of Clinton Administration-era environmentalism was starting to become an object of ridicule of those in the extreme Christian Right. Thus paving the way for President George “Dubya” Bush and his Neo-Conservative Cabal to roll back every progress made with regards to environmental law legislation of the past 30 years. Probably the weirdest thing that the Bush Administration’s Neo-Conservative Cabal managed to do to undermine environmentalism is their success in labeling it as a “heathen ideology” and “not part of Christendom”, while allowing the petroleum / crude oil lobby free reign on Capitol Hill.

But the Bush Administration’s disregard for environmental concerns did eventually create a backlash. It made former US presidential candidate Al Gore’s Myspace-and-personal-You-Tube-site-made-into-a-movie called The Inconvenient Truth a global blockbuster success, and probably the only documentary film that is pirated in Southeast Asia. So does Leonardo DiCaprio’s 11th Hour. All of which made environmentalism fashionable again like it was during the late 1960s Flower Power revolution.

Even though the Bush Administration / Republican Party “stuck to their guns” when it comes to the rhetoric about their take on the environmentalism versus America’s economic security issue, their hackneyed rhetoric literally backfired on them during the height of the 2008 US Presidential Campaign when the Republican Party constituents failed to save Lehman Brothers in spite of giving the oil and coal lobby free reign on Capitol Hill. Thus denying them a “third term” and securing the victory of Barack Obama as America’s next president.

While the positive results of the Obama Administration’s overhaul of the Bush Administration’s profits over the environment policies are yet to be seen, crucial steps are now made to truly tackle the problem of global warming after it has been swept under the rug during the past eight years. And we have also learned something from the eight-year environmental nightmare of the Bush Administration that to save our environment effectively, the almost 40-year mantra of: reduce, reuse, and recycle should also include conscientious choices that should be made in the polling place. Remember that politicians now play a major part in our ability to protect our environment. Setting aside April 22 as Earth Day back in 1970 is a good thing, but everyone should be reminded to protect our planet everyday of the year, especially now where our environmental problems affects us globally.

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