Earth Day 1970 with Walter Cronkite

While we’re getting everything ready for the iMatter March this weekend, I started to wonder, how much has changed since the first Earth Day in 1970?

Look back over the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite on April 22nd, 1970.

The EPA, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and many other legal protections did not yet exist. On that day, Republicans and Democrats clamored to be seen as the true friends of the earth. On that day, 20 million Americans took to the streets in protests and teach-ins to call for urgent action.

On that day, global warming was seen as less likely than global cooling (but our human carbon emission “blanket” overcame any solar cooling). In 1970 population growth was skyrocketing so rapidly that scientists predicted  food shortages as humans exceed the planet’s limits. Since 1970 we have doubled ourselves from 3.5 billion to over 7 billion, relying on petroleum-based fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and GMO crops. (Over a billion of us survive in extreme poverty.)

And 43 years ago, Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America, devoted the entire CBS Evening News broadcast to a Special Report called, “Earth Day: A Question of Survival” which he wrapped up with this brief summary:

It’s worth watching the Special Report to see what students tried to do on that first day, to see what we have accomplished since, and to consider what we have sadly accepted.

We don’t have another 43 years to finally change our personal behavior, to get our leaders and businesses to cooperate. It all sounds quite responsible when Walter Cronkite says our “conspicuous consumption” puts “our survival” at stake. And yet, if our president today delivered these same words spoken on national television 43 years ago, the leader of the free world would be attacked and lampooned as an anti-freedom socialist, and other words I can’t repeat here.

It’s tragic that our green president has fallen silent again on climate change after announcing in his inaugural and state of the union addresses that he would make climate a top priority of his 2nd term, “We will address the threat of climate change knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

The President battles for gun laws, of course, trying to protect our kids so they can enjoy a safer, more peaceful future, just like politicians 43 years ago were debating Vietnam and civil rights, instead of taking up environmental laws. But as Walter Cronkite stated 43 years ago, “There are no civil rights or peace in a lifeless world.”

Isn’t it time now we make climate a real priority? How are we making our kids safer if we keep burning fossil fuels? When putting food on the table today and driving the kids to school today is the thing that threatens their future, we have a serious immediate problem to solve today! Making children buckle a seat belt cannot protect them from the car engine that is wrecking their planet, a direct result of years spent “safely” driving them around town.

We care about our kids, we worry, we fret over them. And we calmly ignore the one thing that we know unravels all of our best efforts at giving them a good life and a bright future. Burning fossil fuels.

So let’s define the debate. Let’s make climate our top priority today. Let’s start carbon conversations all over the country. Let’s show our President we are ready to deal with global warming.

Join us on Saturday April 20th, 2013, at Pike Place Market for speeches and music from children and Native youth coming together for the planet. 43 years after the first Earth Day, we’ll take to the streets to stop the coal trains in Seattle, to organize youth for fossil fuel resistance, and march for climate justice now!

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