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Earth Day 2010

Sources from our Public Insight Network talk about if and why Earth Day matters to them.

Molly Bloom

on 13 December 2010

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Transcript of Earth Day 2010

I'll mark Earth Day by visiting my grandparent's and my parents' graves in the cemetery in my hometown, Madelia, MN, in honor of the simple frugality of their lives. They used it up, wore it out, made do, and did without before they ever heard the term "environmentalist."
-Nancy Manahan, Minneapolis Students at the University of Minnesota, myself included, will spend part of Earth Day talking to students and building occupants in Coffman Union about energy use. I think of Earth Day like I think of public holidays - it's a day when the cause of the environment is championed, for good or bad, by people who are not usually involved with environmental activism.

Earth Day becomes a cause that is strategized about and marketed. I think an opportunity is missed if we do not make Earth Day about taking a break from the work of environmental activism rather than ramping up to do more work that limits peaceful time for reflection.
-Robert Bauer, St. Paul I'm the former National Speaker for Greenpeace in the U.S. Earth Day needs a makeover. During the runup to Earth Day #20 in 1990, public consciousness was focused on the environment as it had probably never been before. But within two years -- partly because of the Gulf War and the '91 recession -- public interest in Earth Day fell off a cliff. It has never really recovered. And yet we now face the single greatest set of environmental challenges we've ever confronted. Somehow, Earth Day needs to become a renewed or re-created focal point.

As it is, the day has become far too much of a routine ritual, to which lip service is paid and which -- to be fair -- still serves as a stimulus to public education and awareness, but which rarely serves to inspire new, powerful, or creative initiatives. I spent the first Earth Day in 1970 leading a group of privileged private-school students on a roadside trash pickup hike. Perhaps the counterpart activity today would be leading them through an hour-by-hour evaluation of their individual energy use followed by a tour of an energy-efficient, solar-powered home.
-Christopher Childs, St. Paul Like Earth Day, I too am 40 years old. I became increasingly concerned about the environment during my teen years.

In the late 1980s, it was not uncommon for those of us who demonstrated such minor actions as carrying our own coffee mugs, shopping with our own grocery bags, re-using eating utensils & plastic bags, biking to work (etc.) to be treated rudely by service professionals and mocked by co-workers.

They seemed to project that by our environmentally responsible actions we were threatening their way of life. Today, organizations and people go out of their way to SHOW that it is hip to be "green" -- regardless of the “disposable” reality of their actions.

-Christian McGuire, St. Paul I am an environmental scientist and as I have gained experience (28 years) I'd like to see Earth Day more as a scientific event than a political event. We have come a long way in env. regulation and have improved our water quality and air quality dramatically since 1970. In my face to face meetings most corporations have made good environmental practice a routine cost of doing business.

Today I think most people are concerned about their air and water and even their food. These results came from the calls of alarm in the 1960s and 1970s. Now we need to make sure we are spending money wisely and based on good science (rather than righteous anger)if we are to continue with those improvements.

I would say the biggest risk is scientific illiteracy. Earth Day needs to become a chance to instill some critical thinking and scientific literacy into the debate if we are to make good environmental decisions and spend resources wisely.

-Daniel Sola, St. Paul Daniel, a hydrogeologist, taking samples. Christian, c. 1981. I became aware of Earth Day in 1971 through my fifth grade teacher. Throughout that entire year, she made us aware of our individual responsibility for earthly stewardship and that despite our young age, there were meaningful actions we could take. From that point on, I became extremely aware of the fragility of our planet and have tried to practice good stewardship and instill that value in our children. I think the conversation and awareness has broadened as we confront quick and vast changes in climate, etc. It's no longer a fringe issue. It's a lifestyle value that needs to be lived on a daily basis.
-Susan Tucker, Edina Susan, c. 1971. I participated in the planning for the first Earth Day in Iowa and we needed to do very basic education about environmental degradation, energy conservation measures and appropriate energy technologies. Slowly, over time, awareness grew of the need to put into practice on a daily basis some individual actions which conserved energy and recycling of materials. Efforts to lobby local governments to recycle trash, collect bottles and cans, etc. saw early successes in Oregon and Iowa. But it was very slow to take hold of the public's imagination until statistics about global warming began to be covered in the consumer media.
-Kathleen Laurila, Crystal Kathleen, c. 1970 I am 73 years old and I will conduct myself as I have for the past many years. I was raised on a farm, by a father that was born in 1873 and practiced conservation better than most people do today. As I have aged my conservative values have only strengthened my concern for the natural resources and our land. Photo courtesy Flickr/RobWillock This is a sad reflection on the creation of Earth Day. In 40 years I have never observed it and to tell the truth I don't really even know what it's about. I believe this is a generational thing. If you were not indoctrinated as a child it means little if anything. When it started we had more important things to worry about. Vietnam, jobs, followed by Watergate, oil embargo, double-digit inflation, and disco.

Another road block is Earth Day had to compete with Arbor day which had been around since 1872. There has been so many attempts by groups to establish special days that is has lessened their importance and those that have been long established. What will you be doing to celebrate Arbor Day?
-Gerald Myking, North Mankato Photo courtesy Flickr/Per Ola Wiberg I've become very jaded as I have aged. I've been concerned about many aspects of human impact on the environment since I was a little kid. I always hoped Earth Day would help educate and persuade Americans to take better care of our water, air and land resources. It may have made some impact around the edges, but by and large Americans seem to be trashing the environment just as much as they were in the '70s.
-Brian Crotteau, Minneapolis Photo courtesy Flickr/Rogerio Vasconcelos In the '70s when I was growing up in a large city, the first Earth Days were a revelation. I didn't think as much about finite resources or how one or a group of people could make any difference. I participated in clean-ups and other activities organized at the time.

Now, so much of that behavior is ingrained in how we live, that I don't think 'I'm doing this to save the planet.' Our 4H club routinely cleans up garbage twice a year along the highway (less to pick up the last few years!), we garden and raise our animals by organic methods, we buy used goods whenever possible, we maintain our woods and wetlands to benefit wildlife. It's gratifying to see other people doing these same things as a matter of course, too.

-Gilda Gieske, Sauk Center Talk with a successful farmer, a concerned lumberman, an active cattleman, people that make a living providing food for our country. They have a greater
wisdom on the proper use
of our resources than many activist that we see on the media.
-Duane Kvittem, Winnebago
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