Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

April 22nd, was the 40th time that we earthlings have celebrated Earth Day. Most of you know that the Earth Day observances started with President Nixon.

Sponsored jointly by the Nixon Library and the Richard Nixon Foundation, we held another of the Nixon Legacy Forum's, "Richard Nixon and the Rise of the Environment." The panelist were three men who were a part of the events of the day, the Honorable Chris DeMuth, the Honorable William Ruckelshaus and the Honorable John Whitaker.

The panel "streamed live", worldwide, from the Nixon Library Theater. It was great. You can see it for yourself on the Nixon Foundation You Tube channel or rnenews@nixonfoundation.org.

Again, I learned so much about what was going on at the time. We were reminded that our environment was just plain dirty, smelly and awful back then. President Nixon knew that drastic measures were badly needed and he made the issue a major domestic priority when he declared in his first State of the Union address that we make "the 1970's a historic period when, by conscious choice, we transform our land into what we want it to become." This bold action lead to the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the Endangered Species Act, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and more than 80,000 acres of National Parks. WOW! So how come people say that President Nixon was only a foreign policy president?

Think back to 1970. We didn't know enough to think about thinking "green." It wasn't until raw sewage flowed into our waterways, rivers caught on fire, medical waste washed ashore, and beaches were closed that we began to wake up and smell the yellow air. One of my favorite lines of the panel was when Bill Ruckelshaus, the first EPA Administrator, said it wasn't until polluted air was so bad that the people in Denver wanted to be able to see the mountains and the people in Los Angeles wanted to be able to see each other, that citizens began demanding change. The impetus came from the people and the President responded.

However, the Nixon administration took its licks on that first Earth Day. John Whitaker, in his book, Striking a Balance, reminds us that Walter Cronkite on a one hour CBS-TV special said, Earth Day crowds were "predominantly white, predominantly young, and predominantly anti-Nixon." In 1970, Theodore White, writing an essay in Life magazine, "The two natural containers of the environment, the air and the water, finally vomited back on Americans the filth they could no longer absorb." That's harsh!

Christopher DeMuth, then a young 22 year old Harvard graduate, who had been brought to the White House by Patrick Moynihan, was very involved in the work of the task force who formulated the administrations environmental policies.

We've seen a huge improvement in our environmental quality since 1970.

Air is twice as clean now, despite that fact that twice as many cars are traveling twice as many miles. Peak smog levels are one-third as high as they were 40 years ago.

Recycling is common place now and every where we turn, we are reminded to think green. This year on Earth Day, school children at Disneyland released 140,000 ladybugs throughout the resort as part of the 12-year old integrated pest-management program. Ladybugs eat 4-5,000 aphids during their lifetime. Now that's truly a creative way to celebrate a bug's life at the Magic Kingdom in a way that helps Mother Earth. Way to go, Mickey!

A green apartment complex of 132 units here in Orange County, California, held their grand opening on Earth Day. Most cities in America are probably planning like projects.

However, we have to keep finding new, innovative ways to continue to make a difference. The job will never be over. Also, not all green, innovative products are as good as the old, wasteful ones. Showers for instance. It's really hard to get warm in the Coyote Base huge, cavernous marble shower with it's weenie little low-flow, water-saver shower head. Now, please don't mess with my shower in our Jackson Hole cabin. It is old and perfectly wonderful. The fire-hydrant-like blast of hot water is a welcome luxury. Sorry, but we aren't completely green and we gotta have some of our favorite comforts of life left to enjoy.

And speaking of showers, when you have your own blog, you get to choose what you want to write about, so my complaint in the shower category is directed at shampoo and/or conditioner container designers. Since I can't exactly wear my glasses while showering, it is very difficult to tell which is which. Come on folks. Make it easier, will you please?

Remembering Dorothy Height: During the years that we lived in Washington, DC, I often attended events and had a chance to visit with Ms. Height, who died recently. Her leadership was legendary, and it is true that when she entered a room, she commanded attention. She was always a vision from heels to hat, and just as friendly and gracious. She never failed to act glad to see me, but I was always a bit intimidated and awed to be in her company. She is called the "god mother of civil rights" and she worked tirelessly her entire 98 years for the cause. I think of her today with gratitude, and salute her for all she did for our country and for humankind.

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