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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Earth Needs a Movement

Air Date: Week of

Students gather for a rally during Michigan’s 1970 Teach-In on the Environment. (Photo: University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)

Host Steve Curwood wraps up this Earth Day special with a reflection on the silence of so many who say they are concerned about the Earth amidst its destruction and the climate emergency.


BASCOMB: It’s the Living on Earth Earth Day special. I’m Bobby Bascomb.

CURWOOD: And I’m Steve Curwood.

DICAPRIO: The problem with doing a speech concerning our environment is that there is so much to say about so many issues. [Cheers SFX]

CURWOOD: With the US Capitol building as a backdrop Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio spoke as chair of the 30th anniversary of Earth Day in the year 2000.

DICAPRIO: With the ever increasing population and the constant need to tap into the planet’s non renewable resources we are quite frankly creating our own scenario for disaster. Which brings us to the solution. Clean energy now and the theme of this year’s Earth Day.

CURWOOD: But more than two decades later and despite speeches by famous people like Leonardo DiCaprio, and numerous political promises we are many more gigatons of carbon deeper into the climate crisis. The related wildfires, tornadoes, storms, and floods now make headlines almost every day. And even as the climate crisis advances, along with ever more toxic pollution and habitat destruction for countless species, Earth Day has become a shadow of itself, and yes, now more of a moment in April than a movement. The millions who rallied on the first Earth Day are mostly down to just a few thousand who plant trees, clean up beaches or hold local marches to rebel against extinction. Those huge first Earth Day rallies prompted bipartisan elected officials in the US to create the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and more. And despite discord over the War in Vietnam, there was the promise we would rise to address to environmental challenges even greater than the famous Cuyahoga River fire in Ohio that helped inspire that first Earth day. But fifty years later with much of the planet itself now on fire, when it comes to the environment much of the public is not. One could blame the partisan divide or the big lies that some commercial interests have promulgated. But I am tempted to think that too many of us, including the millions who now stay home from Earth Day rallies, have forgotten how democracy works. Those who advanced democracy here have marched, whether to dump tea in Boston Harbor in 1773 or cross the Edmund Pettis bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Now it seems the most Earth-friendly marches we make are from the kitchen table to the recycling bin, and true recycling is often dubious. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love our planet and the life it gives us. Why then, are so many of those who say they are concerned about the Earth merely standing in silence?



Leonardo DiCaprio’s Earth Day 2000 speech


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