Earth Day

Earth Day 2015

I haven’t posted in some time, but couldn’t let a RNWMV tradition pass without comment. Every year since I began this blog in 2006, I have marked Earth Day by posting this cartoon, the creation of one of America’s greatest philosophers, Walt Kelly, artist and writer of the comic strip, Pogo. Since the first Earth Day in 1971, the phrase, “We have met the enemy and he is us” has become part of the American lexicon.

Forty four years after the first Earth Day, it is hard to be terribly optimistic about the idealistic goals of the Earth Day movement. The “Green” movement has grown steadily, but faces a situation where change might be “too little, too late”. See, for example, this article from the current issue of Scientific American, Have We Passed the Point of No Return on Climate Change?

Although, over the years, the enemy has coalesced into the climate deniers, politically, the “Green” movement has it’s supporters, including President Obama and the Democratic party, who have become increasingly willing to call out Republicans who remain vocal climate change deniers.

Politics aside, perhaps the most hopeful sign for Earth Day, 2015, is that investors are now making money by going green. Forbes has a list of solar and clean energy exchanges that are easily beating the S&P 500.

The Earth Day Network is still alive and well. It would be worth your time to visit their site and see how you could contribute while there is still time.

Update: President Obama uses Earth Day to talk about climate change.

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Earth Day 2014

Pogo Here we are again- Earth Day. I have posted this cartoon every Earth Day since I began the blog in 2006. It is, of course, by one of America’s greatest philosophers, Walt Kelly, creator of the comic strip, Pogo. Since the first Earth Day in 1971, the phrase, “We have met the enemy and he is us” becomes more and more profound. The climate change deniers,the Koch brothers and their lackeys who fight solar and wind power and all other alternative sources that cut into their oil and coal profits, have become more powerful and, because of their money, more influential.

A clear eyed appraisal of the current situation would say that we are beyond the point of no return. The enemy has won and we can only watch the carnage we have brought upon the “forest primeval”.

Nevertheless, foolish optimists continue to believe it is possible to reverse course. Given the alternative, foolish optimism does seem to be the only option left. If you are interested in fighting the good fight, even if the realistic position is that the war has been lost- click here 

Earth Day

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One of America’s greatest philosophers, Walt Kelly, got it right when he had Pogo identify the “enemy.”  We should be more optimistic this Earth Day than at any time in the past as the dark days of Global warming denial are coming to an end. But, all of us need to take action. One simple action we can take this today is to call the Capital switchboard and tell our Congressmen to support the MarkeyWaxman Cimate Bill.

Earth day 38

Here we are again. Earth Day 38. Have things changed since Walt Kelly and Pogo reminded us that we have met the enemy and he is us? Well yes, we have at least come to realize the problem. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that we have the political will to make the necessary changes in time. In that journey we are on, we are still just taking the first baby steps.

Earth Day and the Enemy

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I have always loved this “Pogo” cartoon by Walt Kelly. If fact, I have a signed and framed 3′ by 2′ poster hanging in my office. As today is Earth Day 37, I have been thinking about whether the enemy is, in fact, us.

I don’t think so. I think the enemy consists of those giant corporate polluters from Exxon to General Motors to Monsanto who profit immensely from the destruction of the Earth, and who intend to continue no matter how overwhelming the evidence is for global warming. We are the enablers. We are the ones who lack the political will to elect politicians who will face the ecological crisis.

Sure, we individually can do the right things by changing our light bulbs and switching to hybrids, but the corporate polluters will continue their global ravaging and despoiling as long as it’s profitable to do so and they can legally get away with it.

Deconstructing Bush

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Saturday was Earth Day. I posted a link to the Earth Day Network where there was a thoughtful essay entitled “Climate Change Solutions: What you can do right now.”

Yesterday, in his weekly radio address, President Bush used Earth Day as his theme. Did he take Earth Day as a chance to discuss the real environmental issues facing us, like climate change? No. Did he discuss critical government policy initiatives like setting mandatory caps on CO2 or setting meaningful fuel-efficiency standards for cars? Of course not. The Bush Administration has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol that would have done both.

Instead, he said the following:

Saturday is Earth Day, and many of you are asking how we can meet our growing energy needs while protecting our environment. The key is technology. So I have proposed the Advanced Energy Initiative to change the way we power our homes, businesses, and cars. I will visit the California Fuel Cell Partnership to take a closer look at hydrogen fuel cells, one of the exciting new technologies supported by my initiative. These fuel cells have the potential to revolutionize the way we power our cars by giving us vehicles that will emit no pollution and will be more efficient than gas-powered cars.

Deconstructing this one paragraph says volumes about Bush and his hypocritical and dishonest leadership style.
1) In the the opening sentence he twists the focus of Earth Day to be about meeting our growing energy needs. Unlike Al Gore, Bush refuses to talk honestly to the American people. Real leaders address the American people about real problems. In this administration, environmental crises are dealt with just like Iraq, the deficit, Katrina ( i.e. “progress is being made” and “We have a plan”).

2) The phrase “…many of you are asking…” is such a transparent and feeble rhetorical device that it is laughable. If there is one thing we know about Bush, it is that his handlers have done everything possible to insulate and isolate him from any questions that might be asked by the “many.” In fact, many of us are asking what he plans on doing about global warming or price gouging by oil companies. Somehow he hasn’t heard those questions.

3) “The key is technology.” This is classic sleight of hand. For Bush this is not a problem where government might play an active role in providing solutions. Technology (read corporate America) will solve the problem for us. There is no hint that the average American can or should play any part in solving the problem. We are not asked to take any responsibility or make any sacrifice. Instead, we are expected to remain passive, powerless and silent. This is the exact opposite of the original intent of Earth Day.”

4) “hydrogen fuel cells” are the answer. Rather than discuss solutions that might have an immediate impact on “America’s addiction to oil,” like alternative energy sources or energy conservation, Bush focuses on a “solution” that all experts agree is decades away from implementation. For example, the Natural Resources Defense Council says:

Hydrogen fuel could play a promising long-term role in solving these problems if it is used in high efficiency, non-polluting fuel cells and if it is made from non-polluting energy sources. Hydrogen fuel cells and fuel sources, however, face significant technology, cost, and deployment barriers. A practical assessment of these barriers reveals that it will take at least two decades before hydrogen and fuel cells can begin to make a significant contribution to our energy security, cleaner air, and a safer climate.

Again, the pattern is clear. Like Iraq, like the deficit, solutions to immediate problems are to be found in a hazy and distant future. A future where the “Great Decider” and “Heck of a job Scotty” McClellan will be “rocking in chairs in Texas and talking about the good old days.”

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

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HAPPY EARTH DAY!
Today is the 36th Earth Day and the famous Pogo cartoon celebrating the first earth day is more appropriate than ever.

Walt Kelly, the author of the Pogo comic strip, was a brilliant cartoonist and political satirist. Pogo first appeared in the 1950’s during the McCarthy era and continued through the Nixon presidency.

Pogo was the first newspaper comic strip to engage in biting political satire and he often faced harsh complaints from those he was criticizing, and their supporters. As a result (as is the case with Doonesbury today), some papers dropped the strip while others moved it to the editorial page.
According to Wikipedia:

Whenever he would start a controversial storyline, Kelly would usually offer alternate strips that papers could run instead of the political ones for a given week. Sometimes labelled “Special” or with a letter after the date to denote that these were alternate offerings, Kelly referred to these strips as “The Bunny Strips,” because more often than not he would populate the alternate strips with the least offensive material he could imagine, fluffy little bunnies telling stupid jokes. Kelly would tell fans that if all they saw in “Pogo” were fluffy little bunnies, then their newspaper didn’t believe they were capable of thinking for themselves, or didn’t want them to think for themselves

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A number of years ago, my wife gave me a framed and signed copy of the “Earth Day” strip and it hangs above the desk in my office. It serves as a constant reminder of the responsibility each of us has in a democracy.

Walt Kelly was a writer as well as a cartoonist and he understood the quote to be more than just a comment on the environment. Here is what he said in the introduction to “The Pogo Papers,” published in 1953, nine years before the Earth Day strip.

“In the time of Joseph McCarthyism, celebrated in the Pogo strip by a character named Simple J. Malarkey, I attempted to explain each individual is wholly involved in the democratic process, work at it or no. The results of the process fall on the head of the public and he who is recalcitrant or procrastinates in raising his voice can blame no one but himself.

Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly. It is just unfortunate that in the clumsy hands of the cartoonist all traits become ridiculous, leading to a certain amount of self conscious expostulation and the desire to join battle.

There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve, then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tiny blasts of tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.”

On this Earth Day, and in tribute to Walt Kelly, let us each find ways to make our tiny blasts on our tiny trumpets. A good place to begin would be to read the Earth Day Network’s Top 10 Actions to Combat Climate Change. And pass it on to friends.