Earth Day 2013 – Let’s All Make An Earth Day Pledge To Be Part Of The Solution

A Commentary from Niagara At Large publisher Doug Draper

“If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the pollution.”

My father painted those words on a makeshift sign for me 43 years ago this April, I joined a few of my classmates at Centennial Secondary School in Welland, Ontario in a picket outside the gates of a polluting Union Carbide plant.

My first Earth Day - the first in the world - in Welland, Ontario on April 22, 1970

My first Earth Day – the first one in the world – in Welland, Ontario on April 22, 1970

It was April 22, 1970, the very first Earth Day observed by tens-of-millions of people around the world, which was pretty amazing given that there was no internet or social media or fax machines, for that matter, to transmit a rallying call from here to countries as far away as New Zealand and Australia within a matter of minutes.

“If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the pollution,” was one of the messages citizen groups like ‘Friends of the Earth’ sent out for that first Earth Day, and it one that seems more relevant today than it was 43 years ago given how badly most governments have let us down on the environmental file.

Back on that first Earth Day, I wasn’t quite 18 years old and along with many of my peers, was driven by ideals and a hope that if enough people pressed governments to take action to address the pollution of our water and air, our growing dependence on fossil fuels, the loss of good-growing and other green spaces to urban sprawl and the vanishing of other species on this planet, our governments would take effective action.

For the most part they haven’t, nor have many baby boomers from those days that went on to assume leadership positions in government and industry.

Consider the following line; “Scientists are becoming worried about increasing CO2 because of the greenhouse effect, with its possible repercussions on the world climate.”

That line could have been written within the last 10 years, yet it is contained in the official “Environmental Handbook” for that first Earth Day in 1970. And where are we on that issue, which thousands of scientists around the world warn could add up to the greatest crisis humans and other living beings face as the calendar years of this 21st century march on?

This earth may be the only place in the universe where we can survive. Let's make it our job as inhabitants to take care of it.

This earth may be the only place in the universe where we can survive. Let’s make it our job as inhabitants to take care of it.

Where we are in Canada is that we have a Conservative government run by Stephen Harper who, in his earlier days. worked for Imperial Oil in Alberta, that has had a record for many years in opposition and government of questioning whether human activities (most specifically, the burning of oil and other fossil fuels) have anything at all to do with climate change . Indeed, there are members the federal Conservative Party, going back to its earlier days as the Reform and Canadian Alliance Party, who continue to question whether there is any such thing as climate change at all.

It has only been more recently, as the U.S. administration of Barack Obama begins to wonder if it should have anything much more to do with tar sands oil from Alberta when there are millions in its own country opposed to the XL Keystone pipe for carrying this stuff to refineries in Texas, and when the Harper government has bailed out of the international Kyoto accord on climate change and has been systematically dismantling its environmental rules and programs, and has been vilifying environmental groups as “enemies” of its oil industry friends.

If we haven’t already, I think Canadians have to come to terms that our federal government does not take climate change or any other environmental issues seriously. It is simply not in the Harper government’s DNA to take climate change or any of the science around it seriously. If this bunch was in power five centuries ago when Christopher Columbus was sailing to the Americas, they would probably go on denying that the world is round for another 100 years. And they go on planting doubts about the climate change time bomb we are facing because they know that if they can keep the debate down at that level, they are buying their oil industry pals time to carry on with business as usual.

Having noted that, things are not that much farther ahead in the United States where going back to the Reagan administration of the 1980s, little interest has been shown in climate change or any other environmental issues, especially during the years when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and their oil buddies were running the place. As important as it is in one sense, it is also disturbing to note what a big deal The New York Times and other American media made out of current U.S. President Barack Obama finally stating, in his second inaugural address this past January that climate change is real and must be addressed.

So where does that leave the rest of us? Should we give up hope or come to terms with the fact that governments are not going to do much of anything unless we force them to as voters, and that we have to be a big part of the solution ourselves?

I had the privilege this past March to once again speak to a group of young students, not much older than I was when I participated in that first Earth, at a Brock University course on “community engagement” (how great there is such a course) led by a fine professor, Mary-Beth Raddon.

My talk was on environmental issues and I more or less said to these young people that it is their future in the sense that we baby boomers will be cutting out in a few more decades, and they should not allow it to be stolen from them by governments and other interests that want to move ahead with growth at any cost to the life-sustaining resources of this planet.

I had the image of that sign I held 43 Earth Days ago flashed up on the screen in the lecture hall and was pleased to hear back from Mary-Beth that in their feedback on the talk, the message; “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the solution,” struck a chord.

So let me leave it like this.

It is up to you and I to do to (solve the challenges we face and to) lighten the burden on the precious on this one and only planet we know of that can support life as we know it in this universe.

It is up to us to do what we can as individuals, in our homes, our neighbhourhoods and communities to be part of our solution.

(Niagara At Large invites you to join in the conversation by sharing your views on the content of this post below. For reasons of transparency and promoting civil dialogue, NAL only posts comments from individuals who share their first and last name with their views.)


4 responses to “Earth Day 2013 – Let’s All Make An Earth Day Pledge To Be Part Of The Solution

  1. I cannot recall the environment being an issue in any way, shape or form in the US elections since Gore ran for President in 2000. Harper is useless on the issue. His oil buddies are more important. I suppose he thinks his money will be able to save his children from the hell on earth he is helping to create.


  2. Strangely enough Linda, the person who has done the most for Renewable Energy in the USA was an oil baron, George W. Bush – yes. the man the world hates for creating the economic & human disaster of Gulf War II.

    A chap from New Jersey once told me that he heard W. give a speech stating that he was promoting Renewable Energy .. not to get Democrats or Greens to support him (“They’d never vote for me!”), but for … “security of supply”, because so many oil-producing countries hate the USA, and he didn’t want his enemies to ever hold the USA to ransom.

    In his first 2 years in office, W. passed a 30% tax credit for businesses and individuals who install Renewable Energy. That credit was matched first by California, then New Jersey, and later by many other states including New York. This means that the world’s best small 2 kW wind turbine providing ~400-500 kWhrs /mo. for your home, would cost $~15,000 in Ontario and half-price across the Niagara River in New York state. The same applies to solar panels.

    If Canada’s largest trading partner (USA) provides cheap energy to its businesses (free after purchase!), and we continue to support costly Nuclear, how many manufacturers will remain in Ontario? (The Bruce Power refit was 3 years and $2B over-budget!) Companies don’t need passports to cross borders.

    BTW, the hydro price increase of May 1st, will bring our rates to just about the $.115 /kWhr that the FIT programme is paying for Big Wind. And that’s before the FIT review panel adjusts the rates (downward!) for Version 3.


  3. Gail Benjafield

    just a comment. I am just back from abroad hours ago. A local choir, WomEnchant, observe earth day each year by singing somewhere in the greater Niagara Region songs to celebrate the earth, environment, etc. Yesterdays was at Mountainview Church in St. C., and I was sorry not to be able to participate as usual. If any of you know of groups that need a choir to celebrate this event next year, get in touch. early. Gail


  4. Earth Day is being ruined by its hijacking by climate activists – see our media release on this here:

    Tom Harris
    ICSC, Ottawa


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.