Leaders, members and supporters of the environmental movement will gather on the National Mall on Saturday, April 22 for Earth Day 2017, joining millions around the globe in their collective efforts to promote climate literacy, mobilize a global citizenry to proclaim the truth about climate change and provide the public with the skills needed to act on behalf of the environment when they return to their own communities.
Earth Day Network (EDN), the global coordinator for Earth Day, has been working with added fervor as the annual day draws near, preparing for activities that will include teach-ins and a March for Science rally that will feature some of the world’s leading scientists and environmental advocates.
And given the stance that President Trump has taken, EDN President Kathleen Rogers says it’s imperative that more people become involved in the international movement who can accurately refute the Administration’s denials about climate change and foster greater awareness of climate change’s unprecedented threat to the planet.
“We’ve already seen the warning signs from the EPA’s budget being slashed by 30 percent to the removal of climate change from government websites — it hits you on the head like a 2 x 4 — all under Trump — and for the life of me I just don’t understand,” Rogers said.
“The handwriting is on the wall. Last year on Earth Day, the U.S. signed the climate [Paris] agreement but now the president has proposed a budget that undermines our credibility if we’re to meet the goals to which we agreed.”
Rogers words do not exist in a vacuum as more than one billion people worldwide make up the environmental movement — a movement whose modern roots can be traced back to the first Earth Day held in 1970. She says what’s needed are “more people who care about people.”
“No one wants dirty water, climate-related diseases and the host of additional environmental problems that continue to rise, but what seems to matter more in this climate of surging populism is the almighty dollar,” she said. “It’s not about the health of the poor or children. It’s not about promoting the U.S. as a world leader. It’s about the flow of money. ”
“The polls show that people want clean air and water but that doesn’t seem to matter to our country’s leaders. Even the new head of the EPA argues that climate change isn’t science based. That’s why Earth Day is so important. It’s more than just discussing the environment — it’s about changing people’s perceptions, educating people and promoting the truth with integrity,” Rogers added.
Rogers says that while it may seem that the steps backward that Trump and others propose will have minimal impact that’s simply not the case.
“We put massive numbers of greenhouse gases into the air — each day is not just 24 hours but more like years of damage,” she said. “The impact of a day without adequate controls is equivalent to months if not years of damage. Adding chemicals that accelerate the process and it becomes even more difficult to remove them and clean up the environment.”
Rogers notes that EDN has other initiatives among its list of priorities, besides the more obvious environmental and climate literacy, including creating green voters and picking up the pace in developing green technologies and jobs.
“We could be the leaders in this and treat it like we did the moon shot or computer technology,” she said. “Consider the Industrial Revolution where some countries dominated for years, including the U.S. We have the same kind of potential now but it will be countries not individuals like Carnegie, Ford or Rockefeller — one or more countries will take the lead in manufacturing a billion-dollar system that creates clean energy practically free. It’ll take a lot of time to do but it will be astounding.”
“The country that gets the green tech industry will have unlimited opportunities. Four hundred million people in India don’t have any power at all. That could be accomplished either with coal or with a distributed solar industry. This fake narrative about how great fossil fuels are is old and washed up. Sure, they’ll be around for a while but then so were the horse and buggy. Going solar is a no brainer — we should be more enlightened. Coal pollutes rivers, cuts lives short and requires us to blow up mountains.”
Rogers points to the importance and need of clean water as a talking point for greater focus on environmental issues.
“Concerns are mounting in California about the state’s ongoing drought crisis. We take clean water and it being easily available for granted in America but in some parts of the world, like several nations in Africa for example, people are suffering and dying. Some experts even predict that the next world war could be about water.”
Rogers says that if Earth Day 2017 accomplishes nothing else, she’s hopeful that more people will realize that “Earth Day is every day.”
“I wonder what will be said two generations into the future about the decisions our country made in terms of protecting the environment and the planet,” she pondered. “I hope they won’t have to say that what we did was barbaric and destructive even though we had the technology to turn the tide.”