Earth Day 2000

(An edited version of this column first appeared in the April 17, 2000 Buffalo News.)

    I must be out of the loop, because each year I have difficulty finding out when Earth Day is to be celebrated. This year once again I had to do some digging to determine the date. For example, my calendar, which includes holidays like Anzac Day (of interest to those Australians and New Zealanders among us) does not mention Earth Day.

    I also have an otherwise excellent book which I recommend to all readers. It is Denis Hayes' Official Earth Day Guide to Planet Repair (Island Press) which does not mention the date. I expect that there are two quite acceptable reasons for this: (1) the publisher wants the book to be useful for more than one year, and (2) Earth Day may be celebrated on different dates in other countries.

    Hayes, who was national coordinator of our first Earth Day in 1970, currently serves as CEO of the international Earth Day Network. Following the dozens of suggestions in his book will not only preserve our environment but save us money as well. For example, he urges us to learn from the Marriott Corporation, which has replaced its motel light bulbs with 25-watt CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps). They produce as much light as old 100-watt bulbs at a substantial saving in both energy and expense.

    I finally did find out the date. Earth Day is this Saturday, April 22, squeezed in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I also found out that this year many Buffalo area citizens will join the 500 million people around the world who will play an active role celebrating our gains since the first Earth Day, acknowledging how much farther we still have to go and planning how to meet our many remaining problems.

    On Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. a candlelight vigil at City Hall, organized by Jay Burney and David Hahn Baker, will focus attention on how environmental problems effect individual citizens.

    Then for Saturday a local steering committee headed by J. D. Hartman has organized an exciting program that will be held on the Buffalo State College Quadrangle (or in the Student Union if the weather continues unruly) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Playing an active role will be local environment-friendly leaders John LaFalce, Sam Hoyt, Crystal Peoples and James Pitts and 45 organizations will mount displays and tours originating there. Meanwhile, the City of Buffalo will sponsor a cleanup of Scajaquada Creek from 9 to 11 a.m.

    I urge you to participate in these carefully planned activities but, perhaps more important, I urge you to extend your commitment to our "fourth rock from the sun" beyond this date. And that is not always so easy.

    In the town in which I reside a team is organizing to address environmental problems over the long term and I believe that their model is worth considering in other communities. My town's group is called Amherst Quality of Life. Their mission statement addresses issues across the spectrum from "pedestrian and cyclist friendly neighborhoods with local parks and playing fields" to "exceptional schools, libraries and senior/community centers," from "redevelopment of run-down commercial and housing facilities" to "environmental responsibility" for such things as energy use and waste management.

    To gain more information about this initiative or to support its goals, contact Robbyn Drake at 691-7544. I predict that groups like this will play increasingly influential roles in the years ahead.

    We have made great gains over the 30 years since the first Earth Day, among them the symbolic return of our bald eagles from near extinction, but we have far to go. Join the good fight.-- Gerry Rising