Tuesday, 20 Apr 1999

WASHINGTON, D.C.

I am way behind on my diary. I’m like a candidate this week, running from dawn until long after dusk giving speeches, courting the press, and asking for money.

I’ve left the begging out of this diary, because those are quintessential private conversations. But Earth Day, like a political campaign, runs on money. Our decision to accept no corporate sponsors is analogous to a candidate deciding to refuse PAC money. I am constantly astonished at how much of my Earth Day time must be spent raising money.

Now, in full candidate mode, I travel to D.C. I fly to Dulles Airport instead of Reagan Airport (nice of the nation’s capitol to let us choose between two cold warriors) because it is vastly cheaper from Boston. Deregulation at work. But the commute to downtown Washington is perhaps five times as long. I underestimate timing and traffic, and miss my scheduled studio slot at Voice of America.

The current Time magazine contains a profile of me. This coincides with another strong Earth Day piece in USA Today. Together, they produce an explosion of media interest (at least by my standards — we aren’t talking Monica here.) We’ve been fielding calls and setting up interviews across the full spectrum — from the giant national TV networks to the Camas, Washington, Post-Record, where I worked as an intern the summer after 8th grade. Spare time disappears and my ear begins to bond with my cellular phone.

I get plugged into a new opening at a Voice of America studio. This awesome resource is underappreciated as an instrument for communicating internationally. It broadcasts everywhere, in (as I recall) 57 languages. Rosanne Skirble runs me through a range of thought-provoking questions, touching on the international dimensions of the Earth Day campaign. It will be repeatedly broadcast in every corner of the planet. I squeeze our website URL into one of my answers, and urge her to keep it in the edited broadcast.

The next stop is a televised interview in a park with Fisher Media, a regional television chain. There I learn from Glenn, the bureau chief who doubles as camera man, that some sort of shooting incident involving students has taken place in a Denver suburb. Some kids may be injured.

Over the next hour, the Denver story evolves into high tragedy. As I write this, there are at least 23 reported deaths. The killers appear to be kids consumed by Gothic escapism and Nazi symbolism — refuges for the terminally alienated. They apparently are kids who don’t fit in, the object of cruel taunts by athletes, cheerleaders, and other golden youth. Somewhere they got the idea that mowing down two dozen classmates is an appropriate response.

By mid-afternoon, there is only one story in America. Even the war in Kosovo is crowded off the front page. My interview schedule vaporizes. I’m sure the sensitive geniuses at the National Rifle Association will be up all night figuring out how to spin this one to keep maximum firepower available to the mentally deranged.

Dinner is at the Georgetown home of Senator John Kerry and Teresa Heinz. A diverse collection of high-profile old friends who talk candidly without expecting to be quoted on a website. So they won’t be. But I betray no confidences in mentioning that Mark Udall, Mo Udall’s son who is newly ensconced as a congressman from Colorado, says that promoting the renewable energy transition is one of his top two personal priorities in Congress.

I walk back to my hotel, get in about midnight, return some west coast phone calls, do the emails that have double marks as “super-urgent,” leave a voicemail message with some current carbon data for the Boston Globe, and turn in a little after 1:30 a.m.