Bush a party pooper for celebrants of Earth Day
Activists, politicians and celebrities gathered for Earth Day celebrations and clean-ups Sunday, but the event’s founder and others criticized what they fear will be a rollback of environmental progress.
President Bush has drawn fire from environmentalists for several environmental policies, including blocking efforts to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and proposing to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
”Tragically, the president doesn’t have any interest at all in the issue,” former Sen. Gaylord Nelson, credited with founding Earth Day in 1970, said in a speech Saturday in Oshkosh, Wis.
Nelson criticized Bush’s decision last month to reject the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty aimed at reducing heat-trapping gases that cause global warming. Bush said the treaty’s mandatory pollution reductions were too harmful to the American economy.
The president has defended his efforts to strike a balance on environmental issues. In recent weeks, he has endorsed a treaty seeking a worldwide phase-out of a dozen highly toxic chemicals and upheld Clinton administration regulations requiring thousands of businesses to report releases of toxic lead.
”Each of us understands that our prosperity as a nation will mean little if our legacy to future generations is a world of polluted air, toxic waste, and vanished forests,” Bush said Saturday.
”As we celebrate Earth Day on this April 22, 2001, I encourage Americans to join me in renewing our commitment to protecting the environment and leaving our children and grandchildren with a legacy of clean water, clean air and natural beauty,” he said.
Earth Day celebrations were more muted than last year, the 30th anniversary of the event. But the mood was celebratory at Grace Cathedral, the towering landmark on San Francisco’s Nob Hill.
Former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart played at the cathedral’s interfaith environmental celebration. More than 1,500 attended the event, which featured everything from a Japanese dance group and Tibetan temple bells to American Indian and Muslim chants.
”This is sort of a unique experience where we’re bringing a range of religious pasts together out of concern for creation and the earth,” said cathedral spokeswoman MacKenzie Ward.
In Los Angeles, politicians and activists held a rally Saturday to protest Bush’s environmental policies.
”Let’s not turn back the clock,” Rep. Jane Harman told a crowd of about 100 gathered at the Venice boardwalk. ”Let’s not let this Republican do the wrong thing.”
The cheering crowd responded with cries of ”No More Bush!”
”It’s time to kick the bad drug habit of oil and costly energy,” said actor Esai Morales, who plays Lt. Tony Rodriguez on the television drama ”NYPD Blue.”
Hundreds of volunteers were joined Saturday by California’s first lady, Sharon Davis, in cleaning up Los Angeles-area beaches, and the Los Angeles Zoo held a daylong celebration to promote recycling.
In Boston, more than one thousand volunteers celebrated gave the banks of the Charles River a much needed spring cleaning Saturday. Students from area universities and civic activists spread out to more than 20 sites along the 67-mile long river.
A rally in New York City drew about 100 anti-nuclear power activists to a demonstration Sunday across the street from the United Nations complex. Organizer Monika Kumar said the rally was to remind policy makers of commitments to a clean environment made on the first Earth Day.
Speaking at Harvard University, former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt criticized Bush’s rejection of the Kyoto Protocol. Bush is ”casually brushing aside 10 years of diplomatic effort begun at the Rio conference in 1992 with the support of world leaders, including his own father,” Babbitt said.
Babbitt served as Secretary of the Interior for two terms under President Clinton. He was at Harvard to receive the Roger Tory Peterson award for his conservation efforts.
Salt Lake City’s Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Games held an Earth Day celebration Saturday in drizzly, cold weather. The event promoted programs to keep pollution and congestion down during the Games.
Turnout was low, but the event drew protesters who handed out flyers condemning the games’ corporate sponsorship. They held signs saying, ”Corporate Games; Corporate Corruption” and ”Protest Olympic greenwashing.”
”The companies they call environmentally friendly are nothing of the sort,” said protester Elizabeth Fondren.
On the Net:
Earth Day Network: http://www.earthday.net
Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov
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