Earth Day 50th Anniversary

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Earth Day 50th Anniversary
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Apollo 8 Earthrise (Photo: NASA)

By Robert Bernstein

We are facing a crisis that could bankrupt the world economy. Yet almost no money is being allocated by our government to solve it.

What about the multi-trillion dollar stimulus package? Doesn't that count? We saw the same response to the 2008 financial crisis. Well, that is not the crisis I am talking about.

The climate crisis has been predicted for decades. I first talked about it back in 1981, almost 40 years ago. Why is it that some crises are more equal than others?

Imagine if we gave the same amount of money to the climate crisis that we have given to the COVID-19 crisis and to the 2008 financial crisis?

If we spent trillions of dollars investing in sustainable transportation, sustainable energy and sustainable agriculture it would be a win-win. It would be an investment that would pay itself back many times over.

April 22, 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the original Earth Day. Many events and actions led to that first Earth Day. Including the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring". And the famous Apollo 8 Earthrise photo (shown above).

And most notably and personally for us, the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill.

Aerial view of oil rising to the Pacific Ocean surface (upper left) near the polluting drilling rig — during the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill. (Photo: US Geological Survey)

What do we have to show for it?

On the plus side, there have been achievements worth appreciating. Here is a partial list:

  1. 1970: The National Environmental Policy Act which ensures that environmental factors are weighted equally when compared to other factors in the decision making process undertaken by federal agencies and establishes a national environmental policy.
  2. 1972: The Clean Water Act
  3. 1972: Banning of DDT
  4. 1972: Marine Mammal Protection Act

    5. 1973: Endangered Species Act
    6. 1980: Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act

    7. 1980: The Superfund Act – Actually called the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act – to investigate and clean up sites contaminated with hazardous substances.

    8. 1987: Montreal Protocol to phase out ozone layer depleting substances    9. 1990: Elephant Ivory International Trade Ban
(Photo by Pixabay from Pexels)
    10. 1990: The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its initial global warming report. Its predictions largely come true.
    11. 1990: Acid Rain amendments to the Clean Air Act
    12. 1995: Wolves are restored to Yellowstone National Park
(Photo by patrice schoefolt from Pexels)
    13. 1995: Bald Eagle recovery is successful
(Photo by Flickr from Pexels)

    14) 1996: Leaded gasoline banned
    15) 1997: Kyoto Protocol on the climate crisis
    16) 2006: Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" raises climate crisis awareness
    17) 2008: The Svalbard Global Seed Vault opens deep inside an Arctic mountain.
    18) 2015: Paris Climate Agreement

It is worth pausing to appreciate these achievements. Not to rest on our laurels. But to give us inspiration that positive change is possible and that we can continue the struggle.

It is easy to get overwhelmed with negative information and to feel it is all hopeless and not even worth trying.

That attitude can even lead to an extreme version of Deep Ecology that sees humans as a blight on an otherwise ideal planet. I do not see things that way.

As a child I was inspired by the quest to "seek out new life and new civilizations" in the visionary words of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry. With so many billions of stars in our Milky Way galaxy it seemed almost certain that we would soon be making contact with such beings. Ideally, with more advanced beings who could teach us valuable lessons to enrich our lives and save us from causing unnecessary harm.

In 1961 Dr Frank Drake proposed his famous Drake Equation as a way to stimulate rational discussion of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Many of the numbers in his equation are still unknown. But recent planetary surveys indicate that there probably are hundreds of millions of rocky Earth-like planets in our galaxy.

And yet we have not been receiving the equivalent of old "I Love Lucy" TV broadcasts from any of them. Physicist Enrico Fermi reputedly said back in 1950 "But where is everybody?" Fermi noted that given the great age of the galaxy, even one civilization should have been able to settle all over the galaxy in a matter of a million years or so. A blink of an eye on the galactic calendar.

Enrico Fermi (Photo: National Archives)

Perhaps we really are as good as it gets? Instead of putting ourselves down all the time and extolling the nobility of other species, perhaps we would do better to recognize how precious we are as a species. Perhaps this is a better starting point for recognizing how precious every other species is as well.

Humans are capable of great generosity. Of great creativity. And of tireless work to achieve visionary projects on a grand scale.

Former Rhodes Scholar Rhiana Gunn-Wright is one of the architects of the Green New Deal.
Road to a Green New Deal Tour stop feat. AOC & Bernie Sanders! - LiveStream (Source: Road to a Green New Deal Tour stop feat. AOC & Bernie Sanders! - LiveStream at 2:15:29, cropped)

In the April 19, 2020 New York Times she gave us this challenge:

"We need leaders who are fit to handle the crises we face, instead of hoping for problems small enough to fit the leaders we have."

I would go one step further: We need leaders who are fit to envision the future we want to inhabit. Instead of inhabiting a world small enough to fit the limited imaginations of the leaders we have.

There is no shortage of human and material and economic resources to take us to a bright sustainable future. We just need the vision, the will and the political mobilization to make it happen.

Santa Barbara Earth Day will be held as a Virtual Event starting at Noon on April 22. Please go to to be a part of this event!

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macpuzl Apr 21, 2020 12:06 PM
Earth Day 50th Anniversary

Thanks Robert. The global disruption caused by the pandemic offers an opportunity to reset our priorities to green energy sources, but that requires visionary international leadership - something that is in very short supply.

Chip of SB Apr 21, 2020 12:24 PM
Earth Day 50th Anniversary

The authoritarians never let a good crisis go to waste. The virus has allowed for an unprecedented power grab as civil liberties have been cast aside. Now they want to cling to that power going forward.

macpuzl Apr 21, 2020 01:44 PM
Earth Day 50th Anniversary

That's why we have to make America smart again, and vote the kleptocrats out.

Shasta Guy Apr 21, 2020 06:55 PM
Earth Day 50th Anniversary

Robert, are you harnessed up for glacier travel in the photo? If so where were you?

a-1587525354 Apr 21, 2020 08:15 PM
Earth Day 50th Anniversary

Just got a half-pound postal mail from the Sierra Club full of paper waste like a notepad, gummy address labels, bookmarks, and recycling info, along with a cardboard membership card and offer to join. What a waste.

a-1587530135 Apr 21, 2020 09:35 PM
Earth Day 50th Anniversary

Robert: On your left hand, are you wearing a KrabKlaw super-grip glove? Man, what a day if I could put on of them on....."When you need mighty Grip, put on a KrabKlaw!"

a-1587535154 Apr 21, 2020 10:59 PM
Earth Day 50th Anniversary

Imagine if Climate Change got the funding that Trump gave to his corporate buddies with this bogus "stimulus package".

a-1587571457 Apr 22, 2020 09:04 AM
Earth Day 50th Anniversary

Why are the Dems letting him get away with this stuff! It's as if the Dems cannot do anything to stop this guy. Monumental fail in my opinion. And how is it that Trump can give $25 million to the Kennedy Center for Performing arts? He gave them $25 million as part of the corona virus stimulus package. I guess the corona virus can be defeated with modern dance and hip-hop music.....Un-Be-Lee-Vubble!!

gnusman Apr 22, 2020 12:23 PM
Earth Day 50th Anniversary

Robert is Right On, as we used to say in the 60s and during protests against the war and for the environment. The Sierra Club (for which Robert leads free hikes) has been doing this for 150+ years, so it's an excellent hub to encourge. You can join for as little as $15-$25 at
and if you really want to help its work in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, here's a link:

sbrobert Apr 22, 2020 05:59 PM
Earth Day 50th Anniversary

Watch Santa Barbara Earth Day here

sbrobert Apr 22, 2020 06:05 PM
Earth Day 50th Anniversary

Imagine if Climate Change got the funding that Trump gave to his corporate buddies with this bogus "stimulus package". I could not have said it better, Anon at 10:59PM on April 21. That was the main point I was trying to make and I am glad someone got it. I began talking about Climate Change in 1981 when solutions were cheap and easy.
Even now, we can solve this Climate Crisis with the same amount of money we are pouring into the COVID-19 crisis. We have the resources when we want to use them. But think of all of the corporate political contributors who would be out of business if we had sustainable transportation and sustainable energy. What will it take for the people to demand better leaders?

sbrobert Apr 22, 2020 06:14 PM
Earth Day 50th Anniversary

"An opportunity to reset our priorities" is exactly correct MACPUZL. And it is indeed all about voting out the kleptocrats and voting in honest, visionary leaders. We also need to end our system of legalized bribery where money can buy elections and the "elected" expect something in return.
Thank you, Condor John GNUSMAN, for your kind words and support. Change can only happen through organized action. I support dozens of organizations in various ways; the Sierra Club is just one that I find especially effective.
SHASTA GUY yes I was on Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska. I was dropped in by helicopter with a guide. It is a scary feeling when the helicopter flies away and you are all alone out there. But it is magnificent. The guide was an emergency medical worker who was a guide as a labor of love on the side. I can relate to that!

Pugluvr1912 Apr 22, 2020 06:42 PM
Earth Day 50th Anniversary

My friends were the talented youth who sang with Kenny Loggins.

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