How the First Earth Day Made Way for the Renewable Energy Revolution


Volunteers partnered with the City and County of Honolulu and other concerned citizens to participate in Honolulu’s Earth Day 2012's Mauka to Makai Clean Water Expo

Photo by Flickr/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Fifty-one years is a long time—a good run. Certainly not a momentous year, or milestone. That was last year. But this year I launched The NetPositive Podcast and for our podcast’s first Earth Day, we feature an interview with Denis Hayes. He was the national coordinator of the first Earth Day in 1970, and founder of the Earth Day Network. He is credited with creating the largest secular movement in the world.

By 1990, Earth Day was “mobilizing” 200 million people in 190 countries. By now, and in collaboration with 75,000 partner organizations, Earth Day has mobilized a billion people worldwide.

The Early Days of Earth Day

Denis is warm and thoughtful, well past his activist days but with convictions that haven’t changed a bit. He puts fledgling Earth Day in perspective, juxtaposing environmentalism with the Nixon administration, the Vietnam War, Cambodia, and Kent State. There was decency in Congress then. Members could and did come together to address air pollution — smog — and water pollution, the worst of which made so stark by the Santa Barbara oil spill.

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Although I very much want to be proven wrong, humankind, in short, is distracting itself/ourselves from our own burning and heavily polluting of our sole spaceship (i.e. Earth). If it were not for environmentally conscious and active young people who are just reaching voting age, matters would be even bleaker than they are. Laborers seem simply too exhausted and preoccupied with just barely feeding and housing their families on a substandard, if not below the poverty line, income to criticize the biggest polluters for the great damage they’re doing to our planet’s natural environment and therefore our health, particularly when that damage may not be immediately observable. The latter is allowed to occur in large part because 'liberals' and 'conservatives' are overly preoccupied with loudly blasting each other for their politics and beliefs thus distracting attention from big business’s moral and ethical corruption, where it should be focused.

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It may no longer be prudent to have every structure’s entire electricity supply relying on external power lines that are susceptible to being crippled by unforeseen events, including storms of unprecedented magnitude (many Texans may now be realizing this). There also are coronal mass ejections to consider, albeit their damaging effects are rare, in which power grids are vulnerable to potentially extensive damage and long-lasting power outages. Personally, I would really appreciate the liberating effect of having my own independently accessed solar-cell power supply (clear skies permitting, of course), especially considering my/our dangerous reliance on electricity. Each building having its own solar-cell-panel power storage system — at least as an emergency/backup source of power — makes sense … albeit not to the various big energy corporation CEOs whose concern is dollars-and-cents profit margin. If solar-panel universality would come at the profit-margin expense of the traditional energy production companies, one can expect obstacles, including the political and regulatory sort. If it notably conflicts with corporate big-profit interests, even very progressive motions are greatly resisted, often enough successfully. Of course there will be those, usually Internet trolls, who will mock the idea for 'not being realistic'. One based his rebuttal solely on the erroneous notion that if it were possible to have such independent solar-power generation and storage, it would have been done by now and made a few people very wealthy.

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