Earth to Co2ngress (updated with news)

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

by Diana Nelson Jones/April 20

This Thursday marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. I remember it well. I was 12 and the budding environmentalist I have become.

In my naivete, I thought Earth Day signaled the end of coal-fired power plants. My family lived a few miles from one that spewed what my father called "steam" and defended. Even at 12 I knew it was indefensible.A gathering of activists at the G-20 Summit at Point State Park

A lot has happened to benefit the earth since then, but the bold big steps we needed back then to be where we should be now depended on the kind of leadership that would have disregarded big election money from the kings of fossil fuel and jerked our leashes and dragged us toward sustainable energy whether we agreed to move our feet or not.

What we have had in our so-called leaders, though, are dabblers and talkers, non-profits collecting money trying to challenge the clout of the pollution kings and a whole lot of gutsy and imaginative little guys who are showing us what's possible on an individual scale.

People with expertise in the solar and wind-power industries have been telling us for years that we already have what we need to convert away from fossil fuels.

Those who contribute to dependency on fossil fuels ought to have been preparing to diversify years ago and getting subsidies and every bit of government encouragement to do so. They would be the CEOs and employees of today's sustainable models instead of "too big to fail" car manufacturers and coal and oil companies.

Coulda shoulda woulda.

This just in: Voith Hydro, a York-based company that manufactures hydropower equipment, was selected by the state Department of Environmental Protection as this year's recipient of the Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence.

Fred Kent of the Project for Public Spaces writes about his role in the first Earth Day 40 years ago, when he coordinated the first Earth Day celebration in New York City.

"The city had never seen anything like it," he wrote. "We were laying the groundwork for a new way of looking at the world -- expanding the public's thinking beyond the limited vision that characterized fields like industry, economics, science and politics to embrace a much larger view of the whole planet.

"Earth Day transformed New York -- literally. To draw attention to protecting the environment in cities, we turned Fifth Avenue into a ‘place' by eliminating traffic from 59th Street to Union Square. People poured out of offices and apartments to walk down the middle of the most important street in New York on a beautiful spring day. (This was five years before I founded Project for Public Spaces, but you can see the idea was already germinating.)

"It was a lot of fun for everyone, but also a potent symbol that this new movement could bring great, positive changes to our lives. And ideas born on the first Earth Day are coming to fruition today."

(You can read the entire article and see more about the Project for Public Spaces at

Forty years. Is that a blip, a short lifetime or a yawning expanse of frittered decades? I'm trying to decide.

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