Denis Hayes is president and chair of the Earth Day Network, which this week is launching an Earth Day 2000 campaign focusing on global warming and energy use. Hayes was the national coordinator for the first Earth Day in 1970 and now earns his keep as president of the Bullitt Foundation in Seattle. Grist, not incidentally, is a project of the Earth Day Network.
Sunday, 18 Apr 1999
EN ROUTE TO BOSTON
Roll out of bed at 4:30 am, Seattle time. Round up some files to review for a speech at Harvard tomorrow. Write a couple real letters and reply to a few dozen emails. Visit the CNN weather site to check for forecasts in Boston, Wash DC, New York, and Cleveland — the week’s itinerary. Bad news. Toss an umbrella into my suitcase.
Head outdoors for a quick run. Shave and shower. Gail calls me in to watch a three-minute clip on beavers — no music or words, just a silent visual essay on beavers — on Charles Osgood’s Sunday morning show. The beavers appear to have taken lessons in playfulness from sea otters. This appears to be the beavers’ effort to “spin” the cherry tree incident in Washington, D.C., last week. It works. They are adorable.
Wonder whether the otters are available to coach Gore.
Finish packing. Rush to the airport.
Any frequent traveler who doesn’t miss a plane every couple months is probably spending too much time waiting in airports. But this morning I need to change some reservations, so I’m early and have time afterward to read a couple articles in the local Sunday newspaper.
RealNetworks is a Seattle Internet company whose staff helped Earth Day Network think through some early web design issues. So I was interested in a prominent piece in the paper about RN’s stock. RN cost about $15/share a year ago, which struck me as a little pricey. But it’s a cool technology, and RN’s CEO, Rob Glaser, is a friend, so I planned to buy 100 shares for my IRA whenever the price dipped. Regrettably, it didn’t dip. By the start of last week, RN was $263/share — your basic 1,700 percent increase. The Sunday newspaper article noted that the price had plummeted to $170 on Friday. I am not moved to tears. If I’d jumped in at $15, I think I could have stomached that.
Speaking of stomachs, we’re now hitting a little turbulence over the Rockies. (I love my Apple Powerbook.) They’ve pressurized the cabin to about 8,000 feet. Wouldn’t want to do wind sprints up here. The airplane air is dry and stale. As always. Lots of the coughing and wheezing around me. I’ll have those germs in my lungs in a couple of minutes.
My statistically inclined friends tell me that, because of atmospheric mixing patterns, it is a virtual certainty that I will breathe some atoms that were exhaled by Julius Caesar. That’s pretty cool. But I could get along without breathing the viruses of the florid former athlete in the gimme cap and the Broncos jersey who two rows back. Hope he doesn’t have TB.
Plowing through my endless weekend email on the plane, I come across a report by the EU’s European Consultative Forum on Environment and Sustainable Development arguing that a major public awareness campaign is needed to make climate change a “key political issue” by 2005 or the EU will miss its goals. According to the Forum, “very little has been done to inform or convince” the public, which is “largely unaware and uninterested” in the global warming issue. Whoa: The case for Earth Day…
Landed safely in Boston. The city is in a buzz. Tomorrow is the Boston Marathon, and it’s also a holiday here (Patriot’s Day). Everyone says traffic will be worse than normal. Since normal in Boston is a state of congealed chaos, I’d better find a subway map.
Monday, 19 Apr 1999
I start the day with Gay Vernon. Her interview show on WMJX (“Magic” Radio) has Boston’s largest audience among women 25 to 55. Gay has been up since 2:30 this morning, preparing for Boston Marathon coverage. She is high-energy and enthusiastic. Wearing running shoes. And (bucking the Larry King trend — “My listeners haven’t read your stuff. If I don’t read it, I’ll ask the questions they would ask”) she’s well-informed on what we are up to and does a spirited, intelligent interview.
Take the “T” to Cambridge (humming the old Kingston Trio ballad as I pass familiar stations), where I do a phone interview with Felipe Luciano of WLIB in New York. As the call letters imply, this is not a Rush Limbaugh outlet. Felipe mixes salsa, jazz, culture, politics, and commentary. He is a leading talk show host in the New York African-American community, and a huge part of his audience has Caribbean roots. We chat about his student days at Queens College where he was a serious radical in 1970 who thought of Earth Day as a diversion.
Today, Felipe is passionate about the connections between social justice and environmental justice. I mention that the worst water, the worst toxics, and the worst air pollution are always in the poorest neighborhoods. And the very worst air pollution in the world is indoors — inside tens of millions of Third World huts where women burn dung and twigs in open fires to cook their food. There, particulates and hydrocarbon pollutants are often 10 times worse than in the most polluted urban air — and this indoor air is all breathed by poor women and their children.
The interview with Felipe (and his call-in listeners) was scheduled for 15 minutes. It swells into an hour, as Michelle (Earth Day’s super-organized communications director) paces back and forth outside the room, letting me know that my schedule is going down the toilet.
We grab a quick lunch at the Harvard Faculty Club with Steve Curwood and Jesse Legman of NPR’s “Living on Earth.” Steve covers the environmental beat as thoroughly and thoughtfully as any journalist I’ve ever met. He’s an incredibly nice guy, while at the same time he asks the tough, skeptical questions about everything. A disarming combination. Jesse is young, smart, and has just placed his first piece in the Atlantic. Celebratory mood.
We race off to the Boston Globe for an editorial board meeting with Bruce Davidson. I know I am starting to sound like a suck-up to journalists, but Bruce turns out to be terrific. He lets me spend the first five minutes framing the discussion, and then he plays a deft game of interview poker — showing just enough of his hand to keep me on my toes. Starts with a set of tough questions about serial hybrids, photovoltaics, fuel cells, and biofuels. After I pass the technology exam, he settles in and we spend an hour traversing the entire terrain of the politics and policy of energy and climate change — and what the Earth Day campaign plans to do about it.
Catch the T back to Harvard. Chris Fox, who dropped out of Yale 10 years ago to be our New England college coordinator for Earth Day 1990, is now at Harvard Divinity School. He has not let his organizing skills get rusty. He’s assembled a roomful of activists and experts from around the region to start thinking about what they can do for the Earth Day 2000 campaign. I can’t recite all the names in the space available, but I could not have handpicked a better roomful of folks. One random example: Bill Moomaw from Tufts announced that he and his colleagues had persuaded the university administration to meet the Kyoto CO2 reduction targets. The president of Tufts will announce the commitment this Earth Day. Bill is now working with Ted Smith and others to get other colleges, churches, businesses, and others throughout New England to make the same commitment. Why wait for the Senate? Let’s just do it!
From 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Chris has organized a public Earth Day forum at the Kennedy School Auditorium. The room overflows. I start my talk with some reflections about my decision to
drop out of this same Kennedy School 30 years earlier to accept Gaylord Nelson’s invitation to move to Washington to assemble a national staff for the first Earth Day. After the funny stuff and the moist-eyed stuff, I roar into the energy/climate change agenda.
The panel of respondents is a forceful reminder of the intellectual firepower of Harvard. The moderator is Professor Phil Sharp, a 10-term member of Congress who was the principal author of (among other things) the National Energy Act. Professor John Holdren — a friend for more than 30 years — is simply one of the smartest people in the world. He chairs President Clinton’s Council of Scientific Advisors. Professor Mike McElroy is one of the world’s most distinguished climate scientists, and the head of Harvard’s Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences. Veronica Eady, a dynamic African-American attorney, used to teach environmental law at Stanford. She now works where the rubber meets the road on environmental justice, running the ACE group in Roxbury and serving on the national board of the Sierra Club. Bob Massie, a former leader of the South Africa divestment campaign and a former Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor of Massachusetts, is now the executive director of the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies. It would be hard to assemble a more stellar panel of Homo sapiens.
The forum adjourns to a smaller reception. The reception adjourns to a still smaller dinner for the panelists and organizers. At the end of it all, I trundle back to my hotel to catch a few hours’ sleep before heading to Washington, D.C. What a great day!
Tuesday, 20 Apr 1999
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.
Wednesday, 21 Apr 1999
WASHINGTON, D.C. and NEW YORK CITY
Today begins with bright sunrise, to the shock of many weathermen. I am to join with Energy Secretary Bill Richardson to dedicate a new solar array anchored on the barren south wall of the DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C. The predicted rain would have dampened spirits as well as equipment. I remind the crowd that a previous administration peeled the solar collectors off the roof of the White House, and congratulate Richardson that we are headed the other way again. Then I challenge him to cover the entire south wall with solar cells. This would be a project perhaps 500 times the size of the current installation. Nobody faints. So I congratulate him on President Clinton’s Million Solar Roofs initiative, and note that we should view it as an important way station en route to 100 Million Solar Roofs. Nobody faints. I decide to quit while I’m ahead.
Race out to Chevy Chase for a Fox TV piece with Lark McCarthy. Race back to Capitol Hill for a press conference for the Sustainable Energy Coalition with the chairs of the House and Senate Renewable Energy Caucuses, Secretary Richardson again, Dan Reicher (the assistant secretary for Good Energy), and James Woolsey (Jim, a former director of the CIA, is perhaps the nation’s most articulate analyst of the national security problems inherent in our skyrocketing dependence on imported oil. He co-authored a compelling article on this last year with Senator Lugar for Foreign Affairs). Scott Sklar, long-time executive director of the Solar Energy Industries Association, moderates the panel, wearing a solar-themed tie that we should sell on our website.
I next rush to the Alliance to Save Energy for a joint session with David Nemtzow answering questions in the Washington Post web chat room. Move ahead to a very late lunch, where a phone call alerts me that a conflict is bubbling up.
Greenpeace is upset that Earth Day New York plans to give an award tomorrow to Sir John Browne. Browne, the CEO of BP Amoco, was the first oil company chief executive to acknowledge global warming as a serious problem. He withdrew British Petroleum from the Global Climate Coalition — the powerful but fraudulent industry front group leading the battle against ratifying Kyoto. (This was, within the petroleum industry culture, akin to the head of Greenpeace endorsing commercial whaling.) BP is now the largest manufacturer of solar cells in the U.S.
P is still an oil company. It still earns 99 percent of its profits from fuels that produce the global warming that Brown speaks out against. BP has a deplorable record in Alaska. Some good environmental groups exist purely to protect Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from BP. A bill toward that end is currently before the Congress.
After about two minutes’ reflection, I decide I don’t have a horse in this race. Both EDNY and Greenpeace are headed by friends — folks I truly admire. But I have absolutely no control over either group. Neither of them sought my advice on whether the award should be given, or whether it should be protested. So I will stay out of the fray and let them both play their respective roles. (Ironically, if Greenpeace did not protest, the award would almost certainly pass unnoticed.)
A national environmental group asked me yesterday what I thought about them giving an award to George David, the CEO of United Technologies. George (who, incidentally, was inspired by John Browne’s courage) has similarly broken ranks with his industry. He speaks out against global warming more bluntly than any national political figure and with a depth of knowledge and conviction greater than that of many national environmental leaders. His Carrier air conditioners pioneered the elimination of CFCs and they lead the industry in energy efficiency. His Pratt and Whitney fuel cells are opening new technological opportunities for benign, decentralized energy. George is a passionate champion of energy efficiency, loudly pointing out that Japan (with 15 percent of the world’s GDP) consumes just 7 percent of the world’s electricity and only 4 percent of the world’s gasoline — whereas the United States uses 30 percent of the electricity and 43 percent of all gasoline! He finds this embarrassing, and he says so publicly. Coming from a titan of industry, these messages resonate.
But United Technologies is also a major defense contractor. It makes stealth helicopters and engines for F-22s. If George shows up for a global warming award, will he be picketed as a warmonger?
The environmental movement does not demand total agreement from religious leaders or labor leaders or even political leaders that it honors and invites to give speeches at our conventions. If we did, we would just talk to ourselves. It is harder for a Fortune 500 CEO to be pure than for a Senator. Yet we hold business leaders to a higher standard of purity. A puzzlement.
The day roars on. Finally — after three airplane delays — I fly to New York where I’m holding a press conference at the U.N. tomorrow.
Tonight I’ve found lodging at the Downtown Athletic Club — home of the Heisman Trophy. I arrive too late to get dinner. Starving, I stumble across a vending machine with Reese’s Pieces and a small bag of potato chips. I bleakly pop in a few coins and head across the lobby. Is there a moment in a former high school athlete’s life lower than stopping in a lobby to admire the Heisman trophy, and read the names of all the legendary gridiron athletes engraved on its side, before taking a bag of Reese’s Pieces up to his room for dinner?
At least the candy is vegetarian. Tomorrow I will try to get up in time for a workout before heading over to the U.N. press conference.
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.