Earth Day! Not Again?
(Edited versions of this article appeared in Global Situation Report and in the May 2000 issue of Infinite Energy magazine)
March 10th 2000
(Was updated daily until mid-May.)
If Gaylord Nelson was the father of Earth Day, Denis Hayes was its engine. 30 years ago they managed to get 30 million Americans out into the streets and protest the abject corporate impact on the environment. In 1990, these same corporations became Earth Day sponsors, lavishing this country in a sea of greenwash. It had come around full circle. Little progress had been made. For every band-aid solution, ten other disasters loomed ahead with no quick fix. The Reagan administration took its toll. Denis went from being director of the Solar Energy Research Institute in Denver, back then stripped of all funding, to being president of the Bullitt Foundation in Seattle, another one of those very wealthy green tax-shelter organizations with top-heavy objectives and nebulous results.
I met Denis in 1989 when I booked him as a speaker for an Eco-Saloon at Wetlands, a New York nightclub fronting direct-action groups. We talked about the role the military could play in the environmental movement. Pentagon procurement eventually became a major supporter of Eco-Expo. Then in 1996, I contacted Denis again about work I was doing trying to bring attention to “new energy” research. I did call him an ill-advised icon for not taking these possibilities into consideration. But I was stunned by his reaction. He lumped "new energy" research with “hopes to power humankind with Swedish Stones and alchemy”, adding he had “no tolerance for conscious fraud”.
Earth Day degenerated into Keep America Beautiful. Where I live, in the Connecticut suburbs, the roads are still littered with Budweiser cans and now Snapple bottles. Nothing has changed very much. Yes, there is a photovoltaic industry, but it’s a bleep on the radar screen of the oil companies that own them. General Motors just recalled most of its few electric cars because of some convenient fire hazard. American rivers might be a bit cleaner than they were 20 years ago, but in Europe and elsewhere, they are dead or dying, like the Danube. Earth, from space, shows the deserts gaining ground and the ice caps melting. Humanity has decided immediate survival is more important than long-term ozone concerns. The Rio and Kyoto agreements were not worth the paper they were printed on.
So what can another Earth Day do? In the spirit of “50 Things You Can Do To Save The Planet”, published back in 1990, and its three dozens variation on the theme, Denis has written a new little booklet: “The Official Earth Day Guide To Planet Repair”. Island Press publishes academic environmental books. Their titles rarely reach super bookstores. I can’t understand why this book which is meant as another how-to for Earth Day activities, had a publishing date of March 15th, only a month before the event!
Shouldn’t this book have been out over the summer giving a chance for people to plan things out?
The aspiration this year is that the Internet will make it a much more vibrant and immediate event. But in the wake of the Battle in Seattle, and the sequel on April 16th In DC, I’m sure the organizers are not ready to really rock the boat. They’ve lavished the distinction of celebrity spokesperson to Leonardo DiCaprio, a guy who, let’s face it, is a good actor, but out of his depth, regardless of what Denis says. Leo just spent the last two years partying on the rave beach scene of Thailand under the pretext of shooting a movie. Interestingly enough the crew was blamed for thrashing its Maya Bay location. Whether that accusation is true or not, knowing Motion Picture Union workers, I wouldn’t put it past them.
The pictures speak for themselves:
( Update March 20th 2000: http://www.egroups.com/group/endsecrecy/438 )
Hollywood has two green think tanks, Earth Communications Office and the Environmental Media Association. Both are great at producing public service announcements but have a hard time cleaning up their own house.
Leo went on TV with Denis in a never-got-up-this-early haze, pontificating about his love for the environment. He followed this stellar performance with some incoherent rant about having to choose between eating beef or tuna in a Rolling Stones interview.
What’s going on here? What has all this degenerated into? We are faced with biosphere problems of cataclysmic proportion. Europe has just experienced the worse storm ever recorded, destroying entire forests, including 10,000 trees in Versailles. (Students in Fayetteville, North Carolina, have donated new trees.) An oil spill worse than the Exxon-Valdez on France’s Atlantic coast three months ago was totally ignored by American media. A flood in Mozambique is right now killing hundreds of thousands of people. Same in Bangladesh and dozens of other places around the world where water levels are rising at an alarming rate. Venice’s monuments are flooded six months a year.
Yes, Al Gore wrote a book called Earth In The Balance, just re-published with a new foreword. A few years ago he was caught on camera explaining to a woman how eating beef was bad for you and had to apologize to cattle ranchers. We expected Earth Day 2000 to be a Gore For President political rally? Instead it was Elian TV all day long. Maybe it's better that way. I'm afraid celebrity environmentalism is backfiring. People in this country are sick and tired of star endorsements. Tired of holier than thou attitudes on the part of icons who keep falling flat on their faces in tabloid scandals? Nothing is sacred anymore, and my stomach starts to turn when I see those whose art I respect, like R.E.M or U2, fall prey to mindless politicians wearing blue suits and red ties.
I’ve been an environmental activist since I had an epiphany at sixteen in 1969, looking out over the ocean sky one night on a Florida beach. I was overwhelmed by the knowledge the planet was alive, a real live organism. The Gaia Hypothesis had not been invented yet. For hours I stood there embracing the vastness of space as I could feel the earth cry out for help. To quote the bad guy in the movie The Matrix: "man is a virus”. Well, maybe I wouldn't got that far. So I became torn between a need to curb humanity’s lifestyle and my gut response to my planet’s perceived cries for help. This feeling later gave rise to sentiments of ecofascism on the part of those who never had these experiences of unification with the elements.
Back in my youth when every religion swarmed in my brain, I finally understood how some fundamentalist Christians saw the environment as a satanic concern. Only Lucifer would care about Earth’s fate since this was his only home. Christ and those he saves will just magically restore the Kingdom. This explained a lot of inertia. A lot of Americans were just living in that hope, at the expense of harsh realities. 6 billion mouths to feed, bodies to warm, 1000 million smog-spewing vehicles on wildlife-destroying asphalt roads! A Crumb cartoon nightmare.
I started looking for solutions, “real” solutions. What could do away with the internal combustion engine and provide us with clean, unlimited energy? I worked on the behalf of solar power for two decades until it became apparent to me it would never make a dent in the power structure. I started discovering the work of renegade inventors who had ideas about tapping energy from the primordial field, CHI, but didn’t have any more financial resources to make it happen than I did. The conspiracy of energy invention suppression is all too real. So when a man like Denis Hayes, whom I looked up to when I was a teenager back in the 70’s, described my aspirations at organizing a Manhattan Project-styled program to bring all these inventors together as a “conscious fraud”, it really, “really” hurt me! How can a man who was such a supporter of solar energy be so opposed to something that might finally solve all our problem 20 years later? Like the oil companies invested in oil, he was now invested in solar. That’s why.
His Guide To Planet Repair is just that, “repair”, like the patch kit you buy for bicycle tires. The Bullitt Foundation is worth $100 million dollars. The Energy Foundation, on whose board Denis sits, spends $20 million a year promoting and sponsoring so-called renewable energy projects. Yet, there’s been no effort on the part of any of these green mega-groups, another being the $1.7 billion Packard Foundation, to make the slightest effort to investigate the research regularly reported by periodicals like Infinite Energy magazine or New Energy News. They are trying to solve old paradigm problems with old paradigm technology. It’s doomed to fail. Earth Day has become a corporate fest, when in fact it should be a return to certain Pagan rites of respect for the astral body that gave us life. A lot of astronauts have come back down to earth with the same conviction. How can we ever hope to bring Earth back in the balance if we don’t tune into what it is trying to tell us?
When self-appointed saviors of our environment refuse to even look at work done by those who propose radical departures from conventional thinking, then these people become part of the problem. Are Denis Hayes, Leo DiCaprio and Earth Day part of the problem? I think they mean well and try as hard as they can with the tools of comprehension at their disposal. But I also think it’s time they made way for people who have a lot more forward vision, and who can now let in those who think they have a better answer, but were never given a chance to make their case known. It’s the same old story all over again. The military for years has been playing with classified technologies deemed too dangerous to let loose on the population. These same technologies used to build mysterious weapons are the same technologies that could save the world. If you are a civilian inventor trying to implement these ideas in a peacetime context, you are ignored by those whose role should be to give you a public forum.
So it was Earth Day again. More helium balloons. More sweeping hemp legalization under the rug. More buy electric cars that don’t exist because Detroit will never mass-produce them. And come April 23rd, it was back to business as usual, until there isn’t one old-growth tree left standing in Oregon, until the Mediterranean is as dead as Long Island Sound, and a multitude of other calamities befall us. Why? Because $300 billion is spent every year on national security instead of international security, and because we’ve erected a force field so high around our borders, America has forgotten it is part of the same globe as everyone else.
Don't get me wrong! I have nothing against solar energy, or the greens. I'm a big supporter of PVs, EVs, etc... Anyone who knows my work knows this. What I object to is the close mindedness of those who appoint themselves in positions of leadership within the environmental movement and then shut the door to potential new avenues for discovering different ways of dealing with the problems.
If you'd like to protest Earth Day inertia, try login on www.protest.net
If you'd like to read about another Earth Day celebrated around the world:
Earth Day organizers have published a 96 page Campus Action Guide called "Tune In. Turn On. Teach Out." which they'll send you free of charge if you contact:
Earth Day Network
91 Marion Street
Seattle, WA 98104
Recent Interview of Gene Mallove, editor of Infinite Energy magazine, by Bill Moore, editor of EVWorld, funded in part by the Energy Foundation:
Responses to this article I got from people on my email list
Gore & Bush eco-policy discussed on CNN Crossfire
A great letter send after Earth Day by a new energy research advocate
CNN Earth Day coverage
Some great quotes from:
Tom Arnold, Donna Mills, Dennis Weaver, Chevy Chase & Sam Donaldson
From: Carolyn Chase, San Diego, California "Earth Day Mom" email@example.com
Greenwire has compiled a massive list of
links to news and commentary on Earth Day. The list had been posted at
but doesn't seem to work anymore...
You didn't need a subscription or password to access it.... though
some links required subscriptions and already changed....