OPINION: For many years, it was a hollow joke. But this year, we're on the cusp of real progress.
For too many years, Earth Day has seemed a kind of hollow joke. We gather in our parks and on our beaches, we pledge to protect the planet's environment, and then we go home to continue living in President Bush's America, where virtually nothing happens to make the earth a safer place to live. How could it when the environmental committees in Congress were chaired by men who insisted global warming was a hoax? The stagnation had grown so bad that by last spring I hardly wanted to be a part of Earth Day at all.
What a difference a year makes. After Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," and after last fall's election, America feels different. Gridlock on Capitol Hill hasn't ended yet, but I sense it soon will.
Last weekend, working with seven new graduates from Middlebury College where I teach, I helped organize a nationwide day of global-warming protests. We launched our website, stepitup07.org, in January, asking people to hold rallies on April 14. Since we had no money and no organization, our expectations were low: We secretly hoped we might be able to organize a hundred of these demonstrations.
Instead, last Saturday, there were 1,400 demonstrations across the nation. All 50 states were amply represented. There were evangelical churches and sorority chapters rallying; demonstrations took place on ski slopes and bike paths. Even underwater scuba divers off the coral reefs of Key West held up the same sign as everyone else, demanding that Congress cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.