Thursday, 22 Apr 1999

NEW YORK CITY and CLEVELAND

Happy Earth Day.

The day starts with a interview with Doug Steffan on Good Day USA — an incredibly high energy syndicated radio show with an audience of over 1 million. It’s followed by a quick interview with Paul Archer on KFBK in Sacramento.

On the way to the United Nations, I do a cellular phone interview with Jim Nichols of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I’m talking in Cleveland tomorrow, and if I can say anything newsworthy this is a chance to build the crowd — both for my talk and for the Cleveland Earth Day event, which will be held at the zoo on Saturday.

I host a press conference in the press room of the U.N. Security Council. Participants include Klaus Toepfer (head of the U.N. Environment Programme), Bill Richardson (US energy secretary and former ambassador to the U.N.), Chief Bisi Ogunleye of Nigeria (co-founder of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization), and Ray Anderson (the visionary chair of Interface — a billion-dollar flooring company with the formal business goal of reducing its extractive use of resources to zero through total recycling, composting, and conversion to renewable energy sources.) The Earth Day 2000 Energy Agenda is embraced and endorsed enthusiastically by everyone.

The press conference goes like clockwork, though most of the participants don’t know one another. A couple reporters try to corner Richardson about the war in Kosovo. He puts them off until after the press conference.

I do an online chat with ABCNews.com by telephone before lunch. Computer users around the world send their questions to the website; someone reads them to me; I respond over the phone; and someone else types in the response.

Lunch turns out to be a bigger deal than I expected. More than 100 U.N. delegates, NGOs, and others spill out of the U.N.’s West Terrace Dining Room. I denounce politicians (including the entire U.S. Senate) who insist that their countries will not begin to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions until others have done so. I express deep embarrassment that America, with 4.5 percent of the world’s population, consumes 43 percent of the world’s gasoline, and promise that Earth Day 2000 will have as a core domestic theme to move America boldly off its fossil fuel binge.

I head off for a one-hour, in-station radio interview on a program called “Talk Back” with Utrice Leid. It’s on WBAI, a Pacifica Station. Utrice is smart, canny, and approaches the topic from a pragmatic leftist approach. I have never been on a program that encourages as much detail and complexity. Utrice asks two-paragraph questions, and I reply with short essays. I don’t know how big the audience is, but it obviously doesn’t suffer from attention deficit disorder. Utrice graciously wishes us luck with Earth Day’s agenda. It’s clear that she (as a committed leftist) thinks we will need not just luck but a miracle.

On the way to the airport, I do yet another online chat by cellular phone — this time with AOL/Time.com. This is my fourth — and last — “online” chat by phone, and I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of it. It’s like giving interactive dictation to someone who doesn’t know shorthand. Since I ordinarily talk like a machine gun, I feel like a 45 record played on a 33 turntable.

The flight to Cleveland is delayed three times. The taxi driver gets lost en route to the Cleveland Athletic Club, where I’m staying. I arrive precisely 15 seconds before the scheduled start of an interview on the syndicated Jim Bohannon show. My fellow guest is Michael Kravcik — an environmental leader in Slovakia who won this year’s Goldman Prize for Europe. I am half Czech and spent a week in Czechoslovakia organizing for Earth Day 1990. We spend much of the interview talking about the role of dam-fighting in preparing the way for the “velvet revolution” that overthrew the communist government in Czechoslovakia, while Earth Day’s communications director, Michelle, quietly grinds her teeth. But I also get in some good licks for Earth Day 2000, and Michael endorses it heartily.

The show is punctuated by occasional noises from jackhammers and a pile driver outside my window. This does not bode well for the night, as it is already midnight.

After the show, I work on some thoughts for my noon talk Friday to the Cleveland City Club. This is one of those treasures that people on the coasts know nothing about. CCC is the longest-running weekly talk club in the nation. The greatest American orators of the 20th century — e.g., Franklin Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, and Will Rogers — have all addressed it — as have some lesser or
ators. (George Bush spoke there five times.) Its Friday lunch talks are carried on more than 400 radio stations across the middle of the country.

I get to bed about 1:30 a.m.