Happy Earth Day, everyone!
Did you know that today, April 22, 2010, is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day?
Well, honestly, I did not know. Actually, I was going to write a blog post on geothermal energy, but after doing some reading, I found some interesting information on the role Earth Day plays in energy, technology, and policy. First, the New York Times discussed how Earth Day is becoming more commercialized . Back in 1970, the first Earth Day was largely a nationwide protest against air pollution and water pollution, with activists marching in the streets and having teach-ins to raise public awareness of these issues. Now, Earth Day is promoted by stores and big companies. Stores are selling green themed toys for children and big name vendors are promoting products made from recycled materials. The New York Times article mentions a New York City sightseeing company that is offering a special deal to visit gardens and flower markets, but still uses fossil fuels to run all of its buses. So in some areas the green movement has degenerated into shameless self promotion. Where once Earth Day stood as a kind of anti-consumerism movement, it has become more of an environmental consumerism movement. This is not a failure, per se, but it is not exactly what the founders of Earth Day were after.
Another article by ABC News brings up the same issue of how Earth Day has changed over the decades. One aspect that they bring up about outside endorsement of Earth Day is the increase in political activity for the environment. The decade following the first Earth Day came with many strides in environmental action from the government. The Environmental Protection Agency was created by President Richard Nixon and began operation on December 2, 1970. Following that came the Clean Air Act Extension of 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1972. Several other legislative actions have been taken to protect the environment since the first Earth Day. Now I would say that in spite of all the moaning and groaning over Earth Day endorsements, a government endorsement for the environment is certainly a plus.
This year for Earth Day, our favorite Obama administration is following suit and joining in the festivities as well. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, held an on-line chat, answering the peoples’ questions about what the Obama administration is doing to help the environment. On discussing America’s current status with energy demand and climate issues, Chu said:
“Today, we are driven by new challenges. America is deeply dependent on foreign oil. Our climate is changing as a result of our carbon emissions, and in order to mitigate the considerable risks of climate change, the world must transition to a sustainable energy future. This will require nothing short of a new industrial revolution. America’s future prosperity may well depend on whether we lead or follow in the new industrial revolution.”
Chu also cited Vice President Biden’s speech on the Recovery Act. In particular, Biden spoke of the “Retrofit Ramp-Up” awards. The Retrofit Ramp-Up program assigned $452 million to 25 communities to retrofit old buildings and make them more energy efficient. An estimated $100 million annually will be saved in utility bills by improving these communities along with the generation of over 30,000 jobs for people to work on the retrofitting. In addition to the money saved, the government is also expecting to learn valuable lesson on how to implement and sustain energy efficient buildings. One of the communities selected in the Retrofit Ramp-Up project is our very own Austin, TX, which will be given $10 million.
So, this Earth Day has certainly not been a lame one. Even though things have changed from the original Earth Day back in 1970, major actions are still being taken by the people and by the government to improve energy efficiency, reduce waste, and protect the environment. One last thing before I end. I feel a little guilty not saying anything about geothermal energy, since that was going to be my original topic, and no one has written a blog post yet on geothermal. So, here is a link to an interesting geothermal site that also talks about Earth Day. Enjoy!