3.. 2.. 1.. Happy Earth Day!

3.. 2.. 1.. Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day! And what a day it is! Around the world important announcements are being made, including in our nation’s capital, where President Biden has committed the country to reducing emissions by 50% from 2005 levels by 2030. That should be viewed as a necessity, not simply an aspiration. It’s what the scientists tell us needs to happen if we are going to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Speaking of announcements, we are going to make THE announcement you’ve been waiting for next week.  We’d love to make it today of all days, but we have a few more t’s to cross and i’s to dot. So, please stand by!

Speaking of Earth Day, if you have a couple minutes, I’d like to share a personal reminiscence of the very first Earth Day in 1970…

In the late sixties, I was a gangly, pimply, and painfully shy teenager in Corvallis, Oregon. One day in my high school library I happened upon the book “Silent Spring,” by Rachel Carson. I don’t recall what possessed me to read it, but I did, and to say it changed my life would be an understatement. In her book, Carson made an argument that was intuitively clear to me and probably to you as well — that all life on earth is interconnected and interdependent, and that we mess with it at our peril. Carson’s book inspired me to start my high school’s first environmental student group — Students for an Improved Environment — and embark on an activist agenda of trying to curtail the knuckle-headed, planet-destroying initiatives undertaken by local government and businesses. For an introverted nerd like me, getting in front of the powers-that-be to agitate against their plans was terrifying. But it had to be done.

The most infamous of their initiatives was a plan to run a highway bypass along 1st Street, effectively cutting the city center off from access to the lovely Willamette River.  My group partnered with some landscape designers at Oregon State University to draw up plans for a riverfront park, and one weekend we broke ground. I don’t recall whether our insurgency was sanctioned or not, but ultimately the City decided to move the bypass to the opposite side of the river, and our park became a reality.

In 1970 we organized a city-wide bike parade for the very first Earth Day. Thousands of our fellow citizens turned out to parade through the city to demonstrate their support for ambitious environmental action. Among other things, our bike parade illustrated the peril of not having any bike paths, so we partnered again with the University and other citizen groups to draw up plans for city-wide bike paths and the City Council elected to move forward with it.

Despite our successes, by the time I graduated from high school I had become disillusioned. Every time we fought back one knuckle-headed, planet-destroying initiative, someone would come along with another knuckle-headed, planet-destroying initiative. It was an endless game of whack-a-mole. So I washed my hands of it and went off to college and eventually a career in software.

If you visit Corvallis today, you’ll find an extensive network of bike paths throughout the city. And the little park we began along the river has become the gem of the city. It didn’t look like that back in my day, however. The park was a little more than the few plants we planted and a dirt path. The bike paths were painted along just a couple roads.

I think it was a chief scientist at Google who said that people in Silicon Valley overestimate what can be done in a year, and underestimate what can be done in 10.  Something like that.  The work that I and my friends began in the late 60s and abandoned when we left for college was picked up by and continued by other people to become what you’ll see today.

And that is the source of our hope. Reducing emissions by 50% in less than 10 years seems impossible, but if we begin now and work together with all our creativity and ingenuity, and keep at it, year after year, we’ll be surprised by what we can accomplish.

Next week, we’ll be adding our bit of creativity and ingenuity to the mix. Stay tuned and stay safe!

P.S., thanks to our partner Eden Reforestation Projects for the photo at the top of this posting.