30th anniversary for Earth Day | TahoeDailyTribune.com

30th anniversary for Earth Day

For its 30th birthday, organizers are breathing new life into Earth Day.

In recent years the attention paid to the worldwide event has waned. However, Earth Day 2000 is different.

“There was a concerted effort, led by Denis Hayes, who organized the first Earth Day, to put a lot of energy into making the 30th anniversary a big Earth Day,” said Mercedes Lawry, deputy communications director of the Seattle-based Earth Day Network.

With an anticipated 500 million people participating worldwide, April 22 should be the biggest event in Earth Day history.

And it will likely also go down as the biggest environmental gathering in history, said Lawry.

The 30th anniversary event is the first Earth Day to have a universal theme: clean energy. And organizers are asking participants to jump on a “Clean Energy Now!” campaign. The campaign warns of global warming, believed to be caused by the consumption of fossil fuels, and says clean energy – such as that from the sun, wind or other renewable resources – is the way to fight that. Organizers are also emphasizing ways to use fossil fuels more efficiently: using mass transit, insulating homes better, running the dishwasher when it’s full and more.

“‘Clean Energy Now!’ is the theme,” Lawry said. “We’ve tried to emphasize how we can combat global warming.”

The origin of Earth Day dates back to the 1960s when U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin was concerned that the president, Congress and the media did not seem to care about the state of the environment.

In 1969, at a speech in Seattle, Gaylord announced there would be a national environmental teach-in in spring 1970. Wire services carried the story nationwide. The response was dramatic. An estimated 20 million people participated in demonstrations all across the country for the first Earth Day, which has been credited for helping the passage of the federal Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the formation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Although global temperatures fluctuate from year to year, there has been a long-term global warming trend since the early 1960s, according to the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies. The year 1999 was approximately the sixth warmest year on record; 1998 was the warmest.

Bringing the issue closer to home, scientists predict more rain and less snow for the northern Sierra Nevada in 30 to 50 years. That could mean large die-off of plants and trees in the Sierra, changing wildlife habitat, and more chance of flooding and more erosion, which is a contributing factor to Lake Tahoe’s declining clarity, according to the Cambridge, Mass.-based Union of Concerned Scientists. The group released a report last November saying that temperatures from 2030 to 2050 likely will be 5 to 6 degrees higher in the winter, 1 to 2 in the summer, which, in addition to erosion problems in the Sierra, could cause water shortages and coastal flooding in other parts of California.

Information about Earth Day: http://www.earthday.net

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