Wildlife under threat
Separated by a week, Earth Day’s March for Science and this Saturday’s Climate March are connected by the interactions we collate together as ‘environment.’ Climate change and unpredictability affect wild species as habitats are destroyed or altered and food supplies diminish. The presence of wild species, however, is more than the iconic natural world we draw reassurance from. Each plant or animal plays its role in the chain of life, enhancing or controlling other species. The balance has been thrown off, and efforts to restore balance are again under threat.
DAGR Issues Chair Kristin Zissis lists the crucial threats that have come up in just the first 100 days of the Trump administration.
During Donald J. Trump's first 100 days in office, the environment and in particular wildlife have been fodder for the Republican grist. First there was H.J. Resolution 69, written by Alaska Rep. Don Young, overwhelmingly approved by Republican senators 225 to 193 and signed into law by President Donald Trump (remember how he defended his sons' torture and killing of endangered species for sport) this past March. This bill legalizes the shooting or gassing of hibernating bear, wolf and coyote mothers along with their sleeping pups and cubs, the spotting and shooting of bears from aircraft and trapping of bear, wolves and wild dog in steel-jawed leg traps and snares in Alaska wildlife sanctuaries.
In addition, the Obama-era prohibition of lead ammunition on federal lands and waters, issued the day before Trump's inauguration, has been rescinded by Ryan Zinke the new U.S. Interior Secretary. Conservation groups say that lead ammunition can poison wildlife, especially predatory birds who feed off carcasses (California Condor, Bald Eagle, etc). The National Rifle Association applauds the move as economically supporting the sport of hunting. The gutting of the EPA (killing Obama-era regulations on industrial poisoning of water supplies) and the proposed border Wall (which threatens 111 endangered species through the disruption of their migratory patterns) further threaten the environment and wildlife. According to Dr. Shonil Bhagwat, a senior lecturer in Geography at the UK's, Open University, the Concrete Wall, in particular, would "split animal populations, making it harder for them to breed and increasing the risk of diseases. Species at risk include ocelots, bears, bighorn sheep, the US’s last remaining wild jaguars, and the bald eagle – the national bird of America."
Finally Dow Chemical is lobbying the Trump administration to "set aside" 10,000 pages of findings that three commonly used pesticides (chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion) are harmful to about 1,800 threatened or endangered species. The EPA now run by Scott Pruitt, climate-change denier, who said he would reverse “an Obama-era effort to bar the use of Dow's chlorpyrifos pesticide on food after recent peer-reviewed studies found that even tiny levels of exposure could hinder the development of children's brains.” It should be noted that DOW CEO Andrew Liveris serves as an adviser to President Trump and has donated $1 million to underwrite inauguration festivities.
Earth Day 1970: The Way It Was
Left: An Earth Day poster of 1970 by Ralph Bently. I had this poster in my dorm room at college for several years. Annie R
Right: One of hundreds of posters, by hopeful humans worldwide.
Retrospective on the first Earth Day march, by Dr. Annie Rassios, Grevena
Perhaps we should go back to the time of the first Earth Day. It was a very troubled time, more troubled perhaps even than today if you can believe it.
We were stuck in the midst of the Viet Nam war: we were losing our schoolmates to the war, to the first wave of recreational drug use, social unrest and race riots were nearly daily phenomena. The killings at Kent State followed the first Earth Day by just a matter of days, showing how “afraid” the authorities were of “us.”
So there we were, about a hundred of us if I recall correctly, marching from our high school into downtown to “protest” for our love of the Earth: we had all read Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring. Once the local businesses we passed figured out we weren't war protesters (this time), we were accepted, smiled at, treated with somewhat of a condescending acceptance by people passing by in their immense V8’s – this was also the time before the oil crisis, when smog levels were at their worst, when it was perfectly okay to dump mine wastes into streams, and only Lady Bird Johnson seemed concerned that the USA was becoming an eyesore.
20 million Americans participated in rallies and rather innocuous protest marches such as ours under the urging of US Senator Gaylord Nelson on April 22, 1970. There wasn't much we could do about the war in Viet Nam except yell; there wasn't much we could do about civil unrest except to naively believe in the power of love. But maybe, just maybe, we could save the planet. We believed we could just by marching down Main Street.
Hard to imagine, but it was, believe it or not, Richard Nixon who, following the Earth Day protests, created the Environmental Protection Agency and passed the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. Subsequent administrations have been hacking at these ever since. It was the ‘70s when recycling centers began to appear and be utilized and when the “crazy” environmental movement took shape.
The Earth today seems even more threatened than ever before. Maybe that little march of ours in 1970 was useless and silly, but I like to believe that maybe it did help to initiate the age of environmental awareness. We did not save the planet, at least, not yet.
Call me "crazy"...
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