Quote of the Day: Pete McCloskey, the co-founder of Earth Day, 50 years ago this month, reminds us that youth and so-called “housewives” made a powerful combination in advocating for stronger environmental protection laws that moved us toward real “caring for creation.” Six months after that first Earth Day, two long-serving pork barrel democrats were defeated as activists generated unprecedented voter turnouts. As McCloskey recalls, “Denis Hayes and his bunch of kids had accomplished a modern miracle… five out of the ten on the Dirty Dozen list [of Congressmen who championed polluting industries] had been defeated. The increasing actions and volatility of local citizens’ groups…many of them led by housewives… had spoken out in protest about filthy air or contaminated water… and wilderness fouled by waste disposal or new subdivisions…”
Commentary: What we learned from a half century of earth day actions that the “environmentally oppressed” have been learning how to effectively break the cycle of siting the most toxic industries in the midst of the poor. This kind of oppression is less visible but just as devastating to communities as political and economic oppression. And yet today, only 12 to 16% of all environmental organizations have people of color from low income communities in key leadership positions. We need a movement more inclusive than fiery youth and angry housewives in the suburbs… stakeholders and leaders from every sector of society.
Suggested Action 43: As you walk today, reflect upon how close or far you are from landfills, superfund sites, dead rivers or deltas, etc. Look around and guess where the next cohort of environmental leaders can and should come from. Think of ways you can mentor, foster or fund a more inclusive leadership among activists who knows that “the earth matters.”
Gary Paul Nabhan aka Brother Coyote is a professed member of the Ecumenical Order of Franciscans, a graduate of the Living School, a conservation biologist, orchard-keeper and story-teller.