Air Date: Week of April 21, 2000
Host Steve Curwood offers some perspective on the 30th anniversary of Earth Day as well as the 10th year of Living On Earth.
CURWOOD: Before we go this week, some thoughts as we mark Earth Day 2000. Thirty years ago, when the first Earth Day rallies got underway, I was slow to get in line. As an African-American I was busy marching about civil rights and fighting poverty. As the son of a single mother, I was busy marching for equal rights for women. As a concerned citizen and Quaker, I was busy marching against the war in Vietnam. Let the white guys march for the environment, I said. Let them rally to keep open space so they can ride to hounds, while I work for a better world.
But over the next 20 years things changed, and I changed, too. As a society, we made a lot of progress on many of the problems of 1970. Poverty and racism didn't disappear, but far more African-Americans and other minorities won more good jobs and acceptance. There is now a national holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr. Women started to close the pay gap with men. Many run companies, serve in government, and enjoy more protection from gender discrimination. And while it still haunts our memories, the Vietnam War ended and we learned important lessons.
Meanwhile, I became a journalist and a parent. By Earth Day 1990, my own young son was telling me that environmental change was the most important, under-covered story going. And I realized that he was right. Of all the issues Americans marched about in 1970, only the environment has gotten worse. Population has almost doubled since the first Earth Day. Species are going extinct faster and faster. Open space and wilderness are disappearing. Evidence is mounting that pollution not only causes cancer but a host of other disorders, including asthma, heart attacks, immune system breakdowns, reproductive problems, and even criminal behavior.
Pollution is also changing the climate in ways that scientists could barely imagine back in 1970. In short, life as we know and love it is changing profoundly. Living on Earth doesn't advocate any particular point of view, except that our relationship to our environment, and what we do to it, is as important as any other part of our lives. And it's our job to bring you the information you need to make the choices that will determine our future.
So, as we move beyond Earth Day 2000, we hope that the need for this kind of reporting will diminish, that the threats to our life support systems will be removed. But until then, we promise to do our best, growing and changing to help you meet the new challenges.
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