‘A Voice and and Opportunity’

Catharine Cooper

Who are we, the human beings, to this planet? Are we a part of it? Or

do we stand separate from?

If we choose “separate,” then we can hold the untenable position of


unaccountability for our actions, and the effects of mindless profit

models can be championed.

If we choose “part of,” then we must hold ourselves responsible for

issues like acid rain, toxic waste spills, open-pit mining and potential


arctic drilling.

This is the week of the 32nd celebration of Earth Day. In 1970,

20-million people across the United States gathered in activities and

demonstrations on behalf of the environment. Twenty-million people

exuberantly self-organized a nationwide forum with which to express their

concerns about their land, rivers, lakes and air.

It was a momentous occasion without precedent, born from the dreams of

Senator Gaylord Nelson, who had tried unsuccessfully for five years to


bring the plight of our home planet to the forefront of the political

agenda. People were concerned, but not the politicians. Following the

overwhelming success of Earth Day, the political process began to move in

favor of the planet.

In 1970 alone, the Environmental Protection Agency was established,

the Clean Air Act and the National Environmental Policy Act were signed

into law, as well as the establishment of the President’s Council on

Environmental Quality.


Following in 1972, was the Clean Water Act, the banning of the

carcinogenic pesticide DDT, and in 1973, the Endangered Species Act.

Powerful legislative shifts moved in orientation to the environment.

Prior to the enactment of these fledgling statutes, lakes and rivers of

the central and eastern parts of the country were dying, some seemingly

beyond revival, without fish or plant life. The air in Los Angeles (if

you can remember) was commonly filled with lung-choking smog. We saw

problems, but had no answers. Earth Day opened the door for dialogue, for

analysis, and for actions.

I know developers decry issues like the California Flycatcher. A tiny

bird, it seems insignificant in the midst of the land they seek to cover

with more multifamily housing units. But if its land is changed from

native chaparral to concrete and playground, the bird will vanish for


We cherish our oceans - as our livelihood, and as a driving force that

brings revenues into the city of Laguna Beach. The Clean Water Act is one

of the tools we wield in our efforts to stop dumping and sewage spills.

We have witnessed in the last few weeks open hunting ground on our

protected Alaskan Arctic slopes.

For the short term, our voices have been heard. What Americans have

said, and continue to say is -- we need open space. We need clean air.

We need a place to breathe.

From the cacophony of voices raised in 1970, we continue to have not

only the opportunity, but the responsibility to speak and to act in ways

that insure that our planet can not only sustain us, but thrive.

Next time you pull on a pair of fleece pants or a synchilla jacket,

think: pop bottles. Carl Sagan, in his award winning television series,

“Cosmos,” asked a simple question?

“Who speaks for Earth?”

I would hope that each and every one of us can answer that question,

“I do.” And if you don’t, then it’s time to find your voice.