DECEMBER 6, 2019 CLIMATE STRIKE RALLY AT THE CITY-COUNTY BUILDING
By Al Hart
Wednesday, April 22, 2020 will be the 50th annual Earth Day. With the world already in a climate crisis, and facing the imminent threat of climate catastrophe, this will be the most important Earth Day yet.
Pittsburgh’s Earth Day 2020 will focus on those corporate and political institutions whose actions are worsening the crisis.
The first Earth Day marked the birth of the modern environmental movement, in response to the growing environmental crisis of the late 1960s, including air and water pollution and oil spills – conditions epitomized in 1969 when the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire. More than 20 million people participated in peaceful actions on campuses and in communities across the U.S., demanding action to reverse the poisoning of the planet.
Earth Day 1970 brought results, including the passage of landmark environmental laws in the United States. The Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts were created in response to the first Earth Day in 1970, as was the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Participants in the first Earth Day were not aware that in just a few decades, the human race and all lifeforms on earth would face an existential threat from global warming resulting from emissions of greenhouse gases by human activity, primarily the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.
Our awareness of the climate crisis has grown rapidly in recent decades, as the crisis has accelerated. In October 2018 we received a stark warning when the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report. Avoiding the most cataclysmic outcomes, it said, requires that we hold the increase in global temperatures to less than 1.5°Celsius (2.7°Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. We have already increased the global temperature by 1°C over what it was before the advent of fossil fuel-based industry, and we are on course for a 3 to 5°C increase by the end of this century. The IPCC said we had 12 years to radically change the course of our economy. (Two of those years have already passed.) Society has very little time to radically change the way we produce energy, grow food, transport goods and people, and construct our buildings.
Young people around the world have taken the lead because failure to act condemns them to a horrific future. Greta Thunberg, the courageous Swedish teenager, has become a global symbol of the youth climate movement, which includes millions of young people. They have organized countless mass protests and strikes, including the Global Climate Strike last Sept. 20 and again on Dec. 6. Young people have been the source of energy and alarm that have made April’s Earth Day 50 so important.
Earth Day Pittsburgh is especially important because we sit on a major battle line. Corporate and political powers here are acting not to address the crisis, but to hasten destruction of the planet. The gas, oil, and petrochemical industries want to accelerate the poisoning of our air, groundwater, and streams, and with campaign donations they have bought the cooperation of many of our region’s and state’s politicians. Fully aware that they are poisoning our water with fracking waste, and despite the shocking emergence of “cancer clusters” – unusually high incidence of rare cancers among children and adults in communities in close proximity to fracking wells in Washington County and elsewhere in southwest Pennsylvania – they frack on. Recently the state legislature, with broad bipartisan support, passed HB 1100, a shameful giveaway of millions of our tax dollars to subsidize the Shell petrochemical plant in Beaver County and similar plants planned in our region. This “petrochemical build-out” will worsen air pollution, accelerate global warming, and add to the global glut of plastics (the cracker plants’ end product) that is choking our land and waterways, filling our oceans, and killing wildlife.
These conditions call for immediate action. We must fight to reverse current policies, and for a Green New Deal that can uplift our communities with millions of green jobs, transforming our energy, transportation and other industries to sustain rather than destroy life.
Organizations sponsoring Pittsburgh Earth Day 2020 include Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion, Sunrise Movement Pittsburgh, Earth Week Coalition, Izaak Walton League – Allegheny County Chapter, Center for Coalfield Justice, United Electrical Workers (UE), Green Party of Allegheny County, Food and Water Watch, Breathe Project, Healthcare for All Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh 350.org, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Pittsburgh Branch.
Visit facebook.com/PGHEarthDay for more information, including updates potential event adaptations due to COVID-19.
Al Hart is the retired former managing editor of the UE News, publication of the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE).
NewPeople Newspaper VOL. 50 No. 3. April, 2020. All rights reserved.