Earth Day is turning 47 this year, and activists say the annual day to honor the earth has never been more relevant. “The goal is to champion robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.”
Earth Day has become the rallying point for a new surge of activism, as scientists and science advocates all over the country and the world organize to march.
On April 22, Earth Day, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., more than 50,000 Los Angeles-area science and environmental activists are expected to participate in the March for Science and science teach-in at Pershing Square. The L.A. March, which will also feature a science and technology expo, is just one of more than 300 independent satellite marches for the National March for Science in Washington, D.C.
Local participants include a number of current and former Hughes Research Laboratory (HRL) researchers and scientists, who live and work in the Santa Monica Mountains, including Agoura Hills resident, Bob Loo, who is now retired, but who worked in solid state electronics at HRL.
“When I came to L.A. in the 1970s I was coughing, the air was so bad,” Loo told the Messenger Mountain News. “They made us put on a smog device on the cars. I remember it went ‘knock, knock, knock.’ I hated it. [Unleaded] gas was more expensive. It went from 20 cents to 60 cents a gallon. We complained. Then a friend said, ‘It’s the price we have to pay for clean air. It’s worth it.’ And it did make a difference.”
Loo said that same friend contacted him about the March for Science. “She called and said are you interested in going? I said yes.”
“The March for Science rally and teach-in will bring together scientists and supporters to demand that our leaders recognize the scientific truths across all disciplines, including climate change and other environmental issues,” the Earth Day Network website states.
In less than two months from the day the event was announced, the organizers of the march have put together a coalition of 100 organizations, including global institutions that range from scientific societies to unions.
“This incredible show of support and interest in becoming partners reflects how important it is to recognize the critical role that science plays in all parts of society, and among different communities providing diverse services around the world,” said March spokesperson Teon Brooks.
Brooks wrote that the goal is to “champion robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.”
The March for Science builds on Earth Day’s activism history. America’s first Earth Day was proposed by Wisconsin U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, as a “teach in” to raise awareness of the growing environmental crisis.
Nelson was motivated, in part, by the devastating aftermath of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, which released as much as 100,000 barrels of crude oil into the ocean, coating miles of Southern California beaches—including Malibu and Topanga—with toxic waste.
Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22, 1970, almost exactly a year after United Nations peace activist John McConnell proposed that the spring equinox, March 21, be designated as a day dedicated to the earth and to world peace.
The event has grown to include more than one billion people in 144 nations, according to the Earth Day Network, making it the largest civic observance in the world. Earth Day 2016 was chosen for the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Los Angeles Times writer Philip Fradkin dismissed the original Earth Day movement in a June 29, 1970 editorial, stating that “this year’s concern over environmental issues at the citizen level will not be matched by enacting legislation.”
A key amendment to the 1963 Clean Air Act was passed later that year. The momentum built by the movement led to passage of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, and the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
“We’re at a point in time where climate change is accelerating and pollution levels are climbing,” Topanga Watershed Committee Chair Carrie Carrier said. “The personal and policy choices we make now will determine whether or not we can avert serious, imminent effects from our fossil fuel-enabled economy and our dependence on agrichemicals and other environmental toxins.
“Making matters worse, we are now confronted by an Administration that is overtly hostile to environmentally protective policies. In response, we must redouble our local legislative efforts and personal actions to offset the adverse changes we are seeing at the federal level.”
Carrier, who has fought against the use of toxic pesticides in the canyon, describes it as a moral imperative.
“You simply cannot have a healthy society without a clean Earth,” she said. “Earth Day forces us to take a step back and examine the relationship between our actions and their consequences.”
Topanga residents embraced the concept of Earth Day from the beginning. The Topanga Earth Day Festival was held annually for 14 years, from 1999 to 2014. The annual two-day festival has been described as embodying the Earth Day idea.
This year, the Messenger Mountain News’ Bonnie Morgan, together with the Topanga Film Institute, is beginning a new Earth Day tradition for Topanga children, Kidz Earth Day will feature Kidzmusic artists Rhythm Child, Dave Kinnoin, Peter Alsop, Dan Crow, Steven Michael Schwartz, Hap Palmer and Katherine Dines, local youth bands, dancers, puppetry and food.
The weekend event takes place April 22 and 23, at Rosewood in Topanga, 1111 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
It is just one of numerous Earth Day observances in the area. Other nearby Earth Day activities include:
Thousand Oaks Arbor Earth Day— Saturday, April 8, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Thousand Oaks Community Park, 2525 N. Moorpark Rd., Thousand Oaks, CA.
Pepperdine Earth Day Fair—Wednesday, April 12, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oceanographer Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence, will speak at 7 p.m., Elkins Auditorium, Malibu campus. pepperdine.edu/climate-calling/
Calabasas Earth Day—Saturday, April 15, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Calabasas Park at the Las Virgenes Creek site on Agoura Rd. (behind the Starbucks at 26531 Agoura Road) in Calabasas. cityofcalabasas.com/earth-day.html.