Forty-nine years ago Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson, looked at the disastrous 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, and thought that more attention needed to be paid to environmental problems. Thus he planned an Earth Day ‘national teach-in on the environment. He chose Pete McCloskey, a Republican Congressman, and Denis Hayes from Harvard to work with him creating this event. To make use of the energy of the young the date of April 22, during college vacations, was chosen.
On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans, young and old, took to the streets and auditoriums to speak about the environmental problems they faced. I was at a rally in West Hartford that day. Where were you?
By the end of that year the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been created and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts had been passed by Congress.
In 1990 Earth Day went global, and 200 million people in 141 countries participated. Today more than one billion people celebrate Earth Day and look for ways to protect our environment.
Locally, we have Nancy Hazard who has worked with many others to create Greening Greenfield (greeninggreenfieldma.org) working for a more resilient and sustainable community. In 2010 Greenfield was among the first Massachusetts communities to be awarded the Green Community designation.
The Greening Greenfield website lists many ways that we can lower our energy costs, and the programs that will help us make use of solar energy on our homes.
One environmental problem is the loss of many species of birds, animals and other creatures. Greening Greenfield has invited Tom Sullivan, the owner of Pollinators Welcome.com, to talk about a Pollinator Corridor. On his recent trip to Ireland he was inspired by their countrywide pollinator plan which supports pollinators that are vital to food production. He now has a vision of creating a pollinator corridor in Greenfield. It would begin at the pollinator garden he and Nancee Bershoff designed in front of the Zon Center and planted with the help of many volunteers to the Energy Park. To celebrate Earth Day h will speak at the John Zon Community Center on Saturday, April 20, from 1-4 p.m.
Another Greening Greenfield Earth Day event is a discussion of Drawdown: The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming edited by Paul Hawken to be held on Monday, June 3, 2019 at the Greenfield Library. This is an amazing book that devotes two pages to each of the 100 challenges that would reduce global warming.
Some of those challenges quickly come to mind: composting, heat pumps, mass transit, green roofs and more. Some are surprising. Think of Managed Grazing that by 2050 could result in 16.34 gigatons of reduced CO2, at the net cost of $50.5 billion and with $735.3 billion in net savings! I saw this system used on the Sidehill Farm some years ago and I saw the value to the cows, and to the improved soil and forage, but did not recognize the benefit to the environment.
Readers can choose the fields they are most interested in so the book is not intimidating. Hazard said “This is an opportunity for collective learning. We learn what is sustainable together.” She added that the book is available through our library system.
I called PV Squared to find out the impact of their work. The company was founded in 2002 by four owner-workers; today they have 44 workers, with 29 owner-workers. There are many ways to define sustainability. PV Square has always created sustainable, living wage jobs and worked to strengthen the local economy.
I spoke to Anna Manello who said “Since 2002, the electricity generated from all of the solar systems we’ve installed is 54,812,000 kW hours of electricity, which is equivalent to an estimated 38,760 Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide!” Another way of thinking about it is 4,361,467 gallons of gasoline used or 4,942,423,440 smart phones recharged.
Manello also told me that they have worked with Habitat for Humanity, installing solar systems on eight local projects including houses on Deerfield Street. Four more projects are in the offing. Their work with Habitat not only sequesters CO2, it provides a sustainable home for a family.
There are other organizations that make our area more sustainable. Just Roots supplies organically grown food that provides food security for many families. They just installed a 9.1 kW array of solar panels for sustainability.
Greenfield Community College teaches an array of classes that include concepts and principles in ecology including ecosystems, population, food production, energy, pollution, technology, and resource depletion.
Community Involved with Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) helps farmers with the business of farming. It also partners with others like the University of Massachusetts Extension Service to teach sustainable agricultural practices.
Earth Day is a day to recognize the challenges to our environment, and to encourage the ways we can each work every day to protect our environment.
Between the Rows April 20, 2019