Guest blogger Denis Hayes was national coordinator for the first Earth Day in 1970, and director of the federal Solar Energy Research Institute from 1979 to 1981. He is now president of the Bullitt Foundation and international chair of Earth Day 2010. Find out about the Earth Day big rally in Washington, D.C., as well as other actions you can take, at the Earth Day Network website.
Earth Day Network is organizing a huge event on the Mall in Washington D.C. on April 25. The goal is to demand tough, effective climate legislation and a swift transition away from 19th century energy sources.
“So what?” you may be asking yourself. There have been a lot of climate rallies over the last 25 years and Congress still hasn’t managed to pass a law. Why should I come to this one?
Let me count the ways …
Past climate rallies have generally run from a few dozen people to a couple thousand. On Sunday, April 25, energy and climate activists from New England to the Carolinas will gather together to find new friends and allies at largest climate rally ever. We are coming together to move beyond education; to demand change; and to make it clear there will be political consequences of Congress doesn’t act.
Inspiration and direction
You will hear from:
Climate scientists like James Hansen, and Stephen Schneider.
EPA chief (and heroine!) Lisa Jackson and CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley
Cultural leaders like James Cameron (Avatar; Titanic) and Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale; The Blind Assassin)
Top business executives from Siemens, Phillips, UL, Future Friendly, and SunEdison
Top labor leaders, including the President of the AFL-CIO and Secretary of the SEIU.
Progressive activists, including Jesse Jackson, Lydia Camarillo, and Hilary Shelton
Climate policy gurus like Joe Romm, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, and Rafael Fantauzzi
Spiritual leaders, including Rev. Theresa Thames, Rev. Richard Cizik, and Rabbi Warren Stone
Athletes like Dhani Jones, Aaron Peirsol, and Billy Demong
Environmentalists like Bobby Kennedy and Phillipe Cousteau
In between the speakers we will hear from some of the most committed artists in the nation, including Sting, John Legend, The Roots, Willie Colon, Passion Pit, Bob Weir, Jimmy Cliff, Joss Stone, Booker T, The Honor Society, Mavis Staples …
In 1970, I told huge Earth Day crowds in Washington, DC, Chicago, and New York: “We won’t appeal anymore to the conscience of institutions because institutions have no conscience. If we want them to do what is right, we must make them do what is right. We will use proxy fights, lawsuits, demonstration, research, boycotts, and-above all-ballots … If we let this become just a fad, it will be our last fad.”
Earth Day organizers created a Dirty Dozen campaign that made “the environment” a voting issue in the 1970 elections. One of the seven Congressmen we defeated that fall was George Fallon, chairman of the House Public Works Committee: the “pork” committee. THAT got their attention. If Chairman Fallon was vulnerable, everyone in politics was vulnerable.
Over the next three years, despite fierce opposition from the most powerful vested interests in the land, Congress passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and a half-dozen other far-reaching laws that have utterly transformed the way America does business.
Now we must do it again.
What is the goal?
Humanity must swiftly abandon dirty energy sources and switch to safe, clean, decentralized, renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal. The world, led by America, must abandon the appallingly inefficient way it uses energy and swiftly embrace the most efficient new housing, transport, and industrial processes that exist. We Americans must slash our politically risky and economically catastrophic dependence on the oil wealth of nations that don’t like us very much.
A necessary-though not sufficient-common denominator is to establish a price on carbon that reflects the costs of climate disruption, blowing the tops off mountains, and acidifying the world’s oceans. We must place a firm cap with no loopholes on the amount of carbon fuels we consume each year and ratchet that cap down at a prescribed rate every year in the future until we hit something very close to zero.
Only a federal law can accomplish this goal.
If this were easy, we would have begun a quarter century ago. The junk science, climate-denying interest groups are rich, powerful, and ruthless. But sooner or later they will lose.
Sooner is better
They will lose for the same reason that IBM and Control Data lost to Microsoft, Apple, and Dell. They will lose for the same reason that Ma Bell — the most powerful monopoly in the world — lost to cellular upstarts and internet-telephony. They lost because their thinking was anchored in the past instead of envisioning the future
The junk science, climate-disruption-denying interest groups will lose because 19th century answers won’t solve 21st century problems.
Come to the Mall
At some point, this climate-disrupting madness has to start to stop. Come to the Mall between the Capitol Building and the White House on Sunday, April 25. Bring your spouse, your parents, your kids, your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers, your congregation, your bowling league. Vote with your bodies on April 25 at the largest climate rally ever.
And put our political leaders on notice that you will vote with your ballot a few months later!