“Silent Spring began with a ‘fable for tomorrow’ – a true story using a composite of examples drawn from many real communities where the use of DDT had caused damage to wildlife, birds, bees, agricultural animals, domestic pets, and even humans.” (Lear) This made a lasting impression on people who read it and the topic was very controversial at the time. Critics even accused Carson of being a fiction writer rather than a scientist (Lear).
It was serialized into three parts in The New Yorker. It was instantly a best-seller and it was the most talked about book for decades. Carson spent over six years documenting her analysis that people were misusing chemical pesticides before knowing the full extent of their potential harm to the whole biota. She was deeply concerned about the future of the planet and all living things on earth. (Lear).
Carson believed the federal government was part of the problem and she warned her readers to ask “Who Speaks, And Why?” She also noted human arrogance and financial self-interest as the heart of the problem and asked that we live as an equal on earth’s systems rather than act as the master of them. She spent the last years of her life defending her conclusions until she passed away in 1964 (Lear).
Senator Gaylord Nelson
Gaylord Nelson, who was then a senator from Wisconsin, came up with the idea for a national day to focus on the environment after he witnessed the severe damages from an oil spill in Santa Barbara in 1969. He was inspired by the anti-war movement and realized that if he could immerse the energy of anti-war protests with an increasing awareness about pollution, then environmental protection could be forced onto the public agenda ("The History of Earth Day").
Senator Nelson then stated an idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media. Congressman Peter McCloskey served as his co-chair and also recruited Denis Hayes from Harvard as national coordinator. An 85-member staff was created to promote the events across the United States. ("The History of Earth Day").
“On April 22 in 1970, 20 million Americans — at the time, 10% of the total population of the United States — took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment.” ("The History of Earth Day")
Earth Day 1970 had support from both Republicans and Democrats alike and by the end of 1970, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to this, it also led to the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts ("The History of Earth Day").
After leaving the Senate, Nelson continued his mission by serving on the board of The Wilderness Society. President Clinton awarded Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, in 1995 on the 25th anniversary of Earth Day.
Creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency
Due to heightened public concerns about air pollution, places littered with debris, and water supplies being contaminated, President Richard Nixon presented a 37-point message on the environment in 1970 ("The Origins of EPA" 2018). These points included:
- “requesting four billion dollars for the improvement of water treatment facilities;
- asking for national air quality standards and stringent guidelines to lower motor vehicle emissions;
- launching federally-funded research to reduce automobile pollution;
- ordering a clean-up of federal facilities that had fouled air and water;
- seeking legislation to end the dumping of wastes into the Great Lakes;
- proposing a tax on lead additives in gasoline;
- forwarding to Congress a plan to tighten safeguards on the seaborne transportation of oil; and
- approving a National Contingency Plan for the treatment of oil spills.”
("The Origins of EPA" 2018)
He also assembled a council around that time – in part to consider how to organize federal government programs made to reduce pollutions, so that they could accurately address the goals in his message on the environment ("The Origins of EPA" 2018).
The president followed the council’s advice and sent Congress a plan to consolidate several environmental responsibilities of the federal government under on agency, which became the Environmental Protection Agency ("The Origins of EPA" 2018).
This reorganization would permit response to environmental problems in a manner beyond the previous capability of government pollution control programs:
- “The EPA would have the capacity to do research on important pollutants irrespective of the media in which they appear, and on the impact of these pollutants on the total environment.
- Both by itself and together with other agencies, the EPA would monitor the condition of the environment--biological as well as physical.
- With these data, the EPA would be able to establish quantitative "environmental baselines"--critical for efforts to measure adequately the success or failure of pollution abatement efforts.
- The EPA would be able--in concert with the states--to set and enforce standards for air and water quality and for individual pollutants.
- Industries seeking to minimize the adverse impact of their activities on the environment would be assured of consistent standards covering the full range of their waste disposal problems.
- As states developed and expanded their own pollution control programs, they would be able to look to one agency to support their efforts with financial and technical assistance and training.”
("The Origins of EPA" 2018)
After conducting hearings, the House and Senate approved the proposal, and the agency’s first administrator, William Ruckelshaus, took the oath of office ("The Origins of EPA" 2018).
Clean Air Act
The Clean Air Act is the federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. It allows EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards to protect public health and public welfare and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants ("Summary of the Clean Air Act" 2019).
One goal of the Clean Air Act was to set and achieve National Ambient Air Quality Standards in every state by 1975, which was meant to address public health and welfare risks posed by certain air pollutants. It was amended in 1977 as well as 1990 to set new goal dates for achieving the fulfillment of National Ambient Air Quality Standards due to the fact that there were many parts of the country that did not meet the deadlines ("Summary of the Clean Air Act" 2019).
“Section 112 of the Clean Air Act addresses emissions of hazardous air pollutants. Before 1990, the Clean Air Act established a risk-based program in which only a few standards were developed. The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments revised Section 112 to first require issuance of technology-based standards for major sources and certain area sources. "Major sources" are defined as a stationary source or group of stationary sources that emit or have the potential to emit 10 tons per year or more of a hazardous air pollutant or 25 tons per year or more of a combination of hazardous air pollutants. An "area source" is any stationary source that is not a major source. For major sources, Section 112 requires that EPA establish emission standards that require the maximum degree of reduction in emissions of hazardous air pollutants. These emission standards are commonly referred to as "maximum achievable control technology" or "MACT" standards. Eight years after the technology-based MACT standards are issued for a source category, EPA is required to review those standards to determine whether any residual risk exists for that source category and, if necessary, revise the standards to address such risk.” ("Summary of the Clean Air Act" 2019)
Clean Water Act
The basis Clean Water Act was initially enacted in 1948 under the name “Federal Water Pollution Control Act”. However, it was reorganized and expanded. It became commonly referred to as the “Clean Water Act” with amendments in 1972 ("Summary of the Clean Water Act" 2019).
The EPA implemented programs for pollution control under the Clean Water Act. One example is setting wastewater standards for industry. It also developed national water quality criteria recommendations for pollutants in surface water ("Summary of the Clean Water Act" 2019).
The Clean Water Act made it illegal to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable water – the only exception is if a permit was obtained. Point sources can include pipes or man-made ditches (Summary of the Clean Water Act" 2019).
National Environmental Policy Act
“The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was one of the first laws ever written that establishes the broad national framework for protecting our environment. NEPA's basic policy is to assure that all branches of government give proper consideration to the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that significantly affects the environment.” ("Summary of the National Environmental Policy Act" 2019)
These requirements are invoked in a variety of instances, such as when airports, buildings, military complexes, highways, parkland purchases, and other federal activities are proposed. Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements, which assess the chances of impacts from alternative courses of action, are required from all Federal agencies and are the most visible NEPA requirements ("Summary of the National Environmental Policy Act" 2019).
Endangered Species Act
“The Endangered Species Act (ESA) provides a program for the conservation of threatened and endangered plants and animals and the habitats in which they are found. The lead federal agencies for implementing ESA are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service. The FWS maintains a worldwide list of endangered species. Species include birds, insects, fish, reptiles, mammals, crustaceans, flowers, grasses, and trees.
The law requires federal agencies, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or the NOAA Fisheries Service, to ensure that actions they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat of such species. The law also prohibits any action that causes a "taking" of any listed species of endangered fish or wildlife. Likewise, import, export, interstate, and foreign commerce of listed species are all generally prohibited.” ("Summary of the Endangered Species Act" 2019)
Earth Day goes Global
A group of environmental leaders approached Denis Hayes to organize a major campaign for the planet – this time, Earth Day went global. 200 million people in 141 countries participated, which put environmental issues on the world stage in 1990. It boosted recycling efforts across the world and it also created a path for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro ("The History of Earth Day").
In addition, it is also what prompted President Bill Clinton to award Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role as Earth Day founder ("The History of Earth Day").
Earth Day for A New Millennium
Denis Hayes agreed to lead another campaign – which was more so focused on global warming and pushing clean energy. Earth Day 2000 helped build both local and global conversations and 5,000 environmental groups in 184 countries reached out to millions of people ("The History of Earth Day").
Earth Day 2000 sent world leaders a clear message: People all over the world wanted action on global warming and clean energy ("The History of Earth Day").
Earth Day 2010
When Earth Day 2010 came around, it was a challenging time for the environmental community in their attempts to combat the distrust of many people, including oil lobbyists, politicians, and a generally disinterested public ("The History of Earth Day").
Despite the many challenges, Earth Day was a success. Earth Day Network reestablished Earth Day as a major event for global action for the environment. 250,000 people went to the National Mall for a Climate Rally and a global tree planting initiative was introduced into The Canopy Project ("The History of Earth Day").
In addition to this, Earth Day Network also launched the world’s largest environmental service project which was called A Billion Acts of Green. This helped engage 75,000 partners in 192 countries in observing Earth Day ("The History of Earth Day").
Earth Day Today
Although Earth Day is now widely known and recognized throughout the world and brings more than a billion people every year to promote changing human behavior and policy changes, the fight for a clean environment is becoming more and more urgent. As people become more aware of the increasing urgency of our climate crisis, they are also demanding action for the planet and life on it ("The History of Earth Day").
“Digital and social media are bringing these conversations, protests, strikes, and mobilizations to a global audience, uniting a concerned citizenry as never before and catalyzing generations to join together to take on the greatest challenge that humankind has faced.” ("The History of Earth Day")
When combining some of the learnings and outcomes of the first Earth Day with the energy and coordination of the youth climate strikes, there is hope that the 50th anniversary of Earth Day will help empower people with the information and tools needed to make an impact and push for change ("The History of Earth Day").
- Lear, Linda. “Silent Spring.” The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson, rachelcarson.org/SilentSpring.aspx.
- “The History of Earth Day.” Earth Day, earthday.org/history/.
- “The Origins of EPA.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 19 Nov. 2018, epa.gov/history/origins-epa.
- “Summary of the Clean Air Act.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 15 Aug. 2019, epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-clean-air-act.
- “Summary of the Clean Water Act.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 11 Mar. 2019, epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-clean-water-act.
- “Summary of the National Environmental Policy Act.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 15 Aug. 2019, epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-national-environmental-policy-act.
- “Summary of the Endangered Species Act.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 5 July 2019, epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-endangered-species-act.
COVID-19 is making its way through the world in silence, leaving destruction in its wake. This poem is for all of us.Read more
My name is Robyn T. Emerson; I’m the lead country coordinator for Kenya and Co-Chair of the Black Caucus here. I have traveled, studied, or worked in every corner of the United States, with my last port-of-call and my voting district being Austin, Texas. I am proud to say I have knocked on thousands of doors, managed hundreds of phone banks, did hundreds of advance work, coordinated hundreds of rides to polls all for the belief in collective power and justice prevailing. I’ve now lived in Kenya for over ten years, where creating communities and empowering people continues.
I’m an urban planner and a consummate organizer. People of color, more specifically people of African descent, are staggering in the life-affirming statistics and leading in the life-threatening statistics. Despite this, we keep rising; we keep singing, we keep fighting.
Living in what #45 considers a sh**hole country and the U.S. clamping down on immigration and refugee permissions out of nationalism and racism, I can not stand for its continuance another moment. With brilliant Americans living in Kenya, we aim to make our voices known and count on issues impacting African Americans. We’ve coined this 13-months to Change, being inspired by the 13th amendment. We will continue community socializing, sharing information, and taking action as a community of African-Americans. We will make a concerted effort to cast the net wider by having monthly meet-ups, connecting the dots between oppression & discrimination here to the experience on the same of our people in the U.S. We stand in solidarity for dignity, freedom, and justice for everyone. We will exercise our rights afforded to us...voting is our top emphasis. I hope you will join us in exploring, learning, and growing.
If you would like to join the DA Kenya Global Black Caucus, just click the join button on our homepage. Everyone is welcome, and I look forward to meeting up, discussing important issues, and winning some important seats with you!
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Mississippi: African American voters sue over election law rooted in the state's racist past
A lawsuit over a Mississippi election law, if successful, will change the way that state elects its governor.
Four African Americans filed the federal civil rights lawsuit in May 2019, charging that the way their state elects its statewide officials violates the Voting Rights Act, the 14th Amendment and the principle of “one-person, one-vote.”
To win election, a candidate for governor of Mississippi has to win an outright majority of the popular vote – and win a majority of the state’s 122 House districts.
If no candidate does both, the state House gets to select the next governor, regardless of who got the most votes. No African American has been elected statewide since 1890.
Republican legislators in Mississippi defended the law by arguing that the plaintiffs provide “nothing more than conjecture” that they would be harmed by this election method.
Media coverage of the lawsuit has emphasized that “no Mississippi candidate who won the most votes for a statewide office has been prevented from taking office because of the other requirements.”
As a historian of 19th-century voting rights in the U.S., I believe this analysis ignores the history of anti-democratic gubernatorial election laws.
Today, Mississippi is one of only two states where the winner of the popular vote does not automatically become governor. Vermont is the other. In the 19th century, however, many states had such laws.
The damage that these laws did to democratic legitimacy and political stability in the 1870s, ‘80s and '90s was not conjecture. These laws were intended to entrench the rule of the party in power.
This November, Mississippi is preparing for its first close gubernatorial election since 1999. The election law that is the focus of the lawsuit could decide who wins. Its origins and the track record of similar laws in more competitive states bear investigation.Read more
The Global Black Caucus seeks to raise the consciousness of our current and potential constituency. To that end, we are looking for our first Poet Laureate (volunteer) for the 2020 election cycle. The Poet Laureate will be selected annually for a term that lasts from January to December. Poetry selections will be featured on the GBC page of the DA website throughout the selected Poet Laureate's term.
The person selected would:
- Create a Poetry Series to explore societal issues and the 2020 elections through poetry's focused lens to describe “truth,” or at the very least, “truths,” in our world.
- They will be called upon to write poetry on significant occasions and throughout the election season.
- Poems should also encourage people to vote, volunteer, or donate.
- It would be great if the person selected would like to make multimedia/spoken word videos or other visual media.
- Occasionally, meet with the GBC Steering Committee.
The poet must be a member of Democrats Abroad and a member of the GBC. Any member of Democrats Abroad who supports universal, unconditional human rights can join the GBC.Read more
It is really important for everyone to read the Mueller Report. Although the report is redacted, there is more than enough information to understand what happened.
After the 22-month probe, Mueller broke down his findings into two parts. Volume I of the report concludes that Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election occurred "in a sweeping and systematic fashion" and "violated U.S. criminal law". Volume II of the report addresses the obstruction of justice.
Key points of the Mueller Report:
- Mueller did not exonerate the President of the United States of obstruction of justice,
- Obstruction of justice is a serious crime that strikes at the core of our justice system,
- And the Constitution points to Congress to take action to hold the President accountable.
Listed below are just a few options for reading the Mueller Report. There are many sources where you can obtain a copy of the report. Please use the options you are comfortable with. The most important thing is that you read the report.Read more
Connect with the Global Black Caucus:
Find out how to start a Black Caucus in your country committee here.
Summer is a time for drift, for lapping waters, sipped cocktails, and rambling walks. One day it’s lobster rolls and white wine. The next day could be Andalusian gazpacho and Dos Equis. The weekend might bring Mul Naengmyeon (cold noodle soup) and Soju. And as your choice of food and entertainment varies with the temperature and your ebbing and flowing lethargy, so may your taste in books.
The lengthening days and piercing sunshine of summertime is the perfect time to crack open that book you might not otherwise read, you may have forgotten about, or that is low on your decades-long list of “must-reads.” And in this spirit, below you will find ten quirky, fun, intriguing memoirs and novels to while away a few of those precious summer hours. Enjoy!
Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabar
Paperback: 336 pages
Fight off a sense of slacker-hood as you dive into this delightful mystery by screenwriter Anna Waterhouse and beloved former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabar. Mycroft Holmes is the lesser known but equally brilliant older brother of the infamous Sherlock, and we are introduced to him at the beginning of his illustrious investigative career. Abdul-Jabar also introduces us to Cyrus Douglas, a black man of Trinidadian descent, an intrepid cigar shop owner, and Mycroft’s best friend. The two men head to Cyrus’ homeland to solve a mystery which includes strange disappearances and spirits that lure children to their deaths; their bodies found drained of blood.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
I approached this memoir with light expectations. Noah is charming and funny on his cable talk show the Daily Show, and although bright, I wasn’t expecting James McBride. But I was pleasantly surprised. “Born a Crime” is funny and poignant and feminist as AF. Noah loves his country and his mama, and he lovingly writes about both as he offers sharp tidbits of South African history along with wild stories of his childhood as a poor, mixed-race child under Apartheid.
Earth Day: Colonialism's role in the overexploitation of natural resources
We are currently experiencing the worst environmental crisis in human history, including a “biological annihilation” of wildlife and dire risks for the future of human civilization.
The scale of that environmental devastation has increased drastically in recent years. Mostly to blame are anthropogenic, or human-generated factors, including the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil.
Other industries like gem and mineral mining also destroy the world’s ecological sustainability, leading to deforestation and the destruction of natural habitats. Much of this traumatic exploitation of natural resources traces its origins to early colonialism.
Colonialists saw “new” territories as places with unlimited resources to exploit, with little consideration for the long-term impacts. They exploited what they considered to be an “unending frontier” at the service of early modern state-making and capitalist development.
To understand our current ecological catastrophe, described as “a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040,” we need to look at the role of colonialism at its roots.
This exploration is not a debate over whether colonialism was “good” or “bad”. Instead, it is about understanding how this global process helped create the world we currently inhabit.Read more
When it comes to how deeply embedded racism is in American society, blacks and whites have sharply different views.
For instance, 70 percent of whites believe that individual discrimination is a bigger problem than discrimination built into the nation’s laws and institutions. Only 48 percent of blacks believe that is true.
Many blacks and whites also fail to see eye to eye regarding the use of blackface, which dominated the news cycle during the early part of 2019 due to a series of scandals that involve the highest elected leaders in Virginia, where I teach.
The donning of blackface happens throughout the country, particularly on college campuses. Recent polls indicate that 42 percent of white American adults either think blackface is acceptable or are uncertain as to whether it is.
One of the most recent blackface scandals has involved Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, whose yearbook page from medical school features someone in blackface standing alongside another person dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe. Northam has denied being either person. The more Northam has tried to defend his past actions, the clearer it has become to me how little he appears to know about fundamental aspects of American history, such as slavery. For instance, Northam referred to Virginia’s earliest slaves as “indentured servants”. His ignorance has led to greater scrutiny of how he managed to ascend to the highest leadership position in a racially diverse state with such a profound history of racism and white supremacy.Read more