We’ve moved!
Visit the new Library of America blog at our new website: www.loa.org/news-and-views

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day: A day for words . . . and for action

Guest blog post by Bill McKibben, editor of American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau:

Earth Day 1970 may have been the greatest single outpouring of democratic fervor in U.S. history—twenty million Americans, about a tenth of the population at that moment—took to the streets for rallies, celebrations, carnivals, and clean-ups.

They were inspired, in large measure, by words: as I tried to show in American Earth, pretty much every advance in American environmental understanding and practice had been fostered by great writing: the conservation movement by George Perkins Marsh, the national parks by John Muir, the wilderness drive by Bob Marshall. And Earth Day itself by the combined efforts of David Brower, with his remarkable Sierra Club coffee table books of the 1960s, and Rachel Carson, who managed to take the shine off modernity for the first time.

But all those people in the streets in turn inspired much action—within a short period Congress had passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and most of our other basic environmental legislation (laws that it is completely impossible to imagine our current Congress passing—indeed, the action at the moment is about gutting the Clean Air Act). Environmental writing has always had an inescapably political side, and never more so than at present, when great writers like Terry Tempest Williams or Rick Bass or Wendell Berry are in the forefront of our various fights. Berry—arguably the most important writer at work in the country today—occupied the governor’s office in Kentucky earlier this spring to force action ending mountaintop removal coal mining. Last Monday in Washington, the great writer Janisse Ray (author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood) was arrested during a sit-in at the Interior Department.

But it’s not just writers that can help here. The environmental movement thrives through the creativity, passion, and energy of citizens who care. For the past four years, I've been working with 350.org on the current climate crisis. Why 350? To preserve our planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 392 parts per million to below 350 ppm. 350.org uses online tools to facilitate strategic offline action. In the last two years, there have been 15,000 demonstrations in 189 nations. CNN called it the most widespread political activity in the planet’s history. Visit 350.org to find out about some current initiatives and what you can do to make this Earth Day personal.

Also of Interest
Related LOA volumes: American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau, John Muir: Nature Writings, Treasury of American Nature Writing (6 books)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Wikio - Top Blogs - Literature