Today is the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. Pollution was front and center on the original Earth Day, and Rachel Carson was the prototype activist for this second phase of the U.S. environmental movement.
I’m very disappointed to have found no obvious reference to Earth Day in today’s Los Angeles Times. The LA-based events are paltry and insignificant, though I’m planning on attending the Sierra Club’s event in Griffith Park. Earth Day clearly has faded in significance.
The initial Earth Day celebration in New York in 1970 had a million participants. That is a huge number. We got 400,000 participants for the New York People’s Climate March in September 2014, the largest recent U.S. environmental event. This disparity is startling in light of the 57% population increase in this country since 1970.
Pollution still polls much more strongly than climate change. (See the Cheap and Clean book by Ansolabehere and Konisky.) Americans are still very concerned about drinking, eating and breathing poisons, direct threats to their personal health. They are much less concerned about climate disruption, feeling that its effects are to distant in time and space to have much effect on them personally.
The Cheap and Clean book has a suggestion U.S. climate activists: focus on the harms (mostly from pollution) from dirty energy (especially coal) rather than dirty energy’s climate-disruptive effects.
Earth Day should be a big deal, because the environment—especially climate change—is the most significant problem of our age.