Latest News and Comment from Education

Thursday, April 23, 2020

'We must act': Earth Day in the time of pandemic

'We must act': Earth Day in the time of pandemic

‘We must act’: Earth Day in the time of pandemic

In the fall of 2019, the journalist David Corn wrote in Mother Jones about a mental health crisis among climate scientists, who face “the constant background of doom and gloom of science.” He cited a filmmaker, Christine Arena, who learned about researchers, “There’s deep grief and anxiety for what’s being lost, followed by rage at continued political inaction, and finally hope that we can indeed solve this challenge. (…) They are on the front lines of contending with the fear, anger, and perhaps even panic the rest of us will have to deal with.”

Climate science has not always been such a deeply doom-and-gloom subject. Fifty years ago this week, on April 22, 1970, nearly 10 percent of Americans turned out for the first annual Earth Day. The event was a cross-generational, multicultural effort to clean the air and water, ban DDT, save the whales, halt offshore drilling and remove lead from paint and gasoline.
At the time, there was also the hope of a bipartisan, cross-sector effort to head off climate change. As Nathaniel Rich documented two years ago in the New York Times Magazine, in 1965 a Science Advisory Committee executive report on carbon dioxide “warned of the rapid melting of Antarctica, rising seas, (and) increased acidity of fresh waters.”
No coordinated global effort was immediately undertaken, and emissions continued to rise into the 1970s. But in the next decade or so, there were promising congressional responses. In 1987, Sen. Joe Biden introduced legislation to establish a national climate-change strategy. In 1988, there were 32 climate-related bills introduced in Congress, and eventually Sen. Timothy Wirth led the way to the omnibus Energy Policy Act of 1992.
Before 1989, Rich wrote, “Some of the largest oil companies, including Exxon and Shell, made good-faith efforts to understand the scope of the crisis and grapple with possible solutions.” Rich cited an Exxon 1978 internal memo warning that “humankind had only five to 10 years before policy action would be necessary.”
Alarmed by the anti-environmentalism of President Ronald Reagan and his appointees, such as James Watt and Anne Gorsuch, many Republicans helped lead the battle against CONTINUE READING: 'We must act': Earth Day in the time of pandemic