Something is Missing in Our Earth Day Activities

Published on April 17th, 2008

By Maria Fotopoulos
April 16, 2008

Last year about this time, it occurred to me that the “green thing” had finally arrived … was running on all cylinders … had achieved mass market acceptance. The dawning came with the realization that seemingly all the key consumer magazines had dedicated April as their green issues – hadn’t seen that before – even though of course April is the month in which Earth Day is celebrated.

There finally was this critical mass of awareness achieved through myriad efforts, including such contributions as Al Gore’s continual “hitting the pavement” with “An Inconvenient Truth,” the good ongoing work of organizations such as the well-funded Natural Resources Defense Council and the efforts of millions of individuals.

There were numerous news stories about corporate efforts to incorporate green as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR), and more and more green products came to market. Sure, some of this green enthusiasm had to be discounted as just lip-service and trying to ride the green wave, but with thousands of other pieces of green evidence, there was no denying there was a new level of awareness and a desire to move towards a truly sustainable society.

This is all good, but in a month that has that special day – Earth Day – to salute Mother Earth and to wallow in our green-ness (even though, yes, we’re supposed to live Earth Day every day), we for the most part ignore a key issue that drove the environmental movement 40 years ago.

So while the kids are enjoying green face-painting and parents are admiring the many uses of hemp at the numerous Earth Day activities during this month, it’s time to add back the discussion about overpopulation by Homo sapiens.

The late Senator Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day, knew that population was a significant element of environmentalism. “The bigger the population gets, the more serious the problems become…. We have to address the population issue…. It can be done.”

Unfortunately, we have become increasingly reticent to discuss overpopulation and its concomitant environmental impacts, let alone actually address it. The 1970s when the population-environment linkage was always acknowledged and widely discussed are a distant memory. We now live in a time where for eight years the leader of the free world has failed to show any true top-down leadership by repeatedly denying funding for the United Nations Population Fund.

And within our country for the last 25 years, we have allowed a flood of immigrants to settle here essentially unchecked. Again to Gaylord Nelson, who also said, “In this country, it’s phony to say ‘I’m for the environment but not for limiting immigration.’”

Here in California, the population increased nearly 50 percent just from 1970 to 1990. Virtually all of the additional 500,000 people we’ve been adding annually in recent years is attributable to immigrants and births to immigrants. According to the California Department of Finance, the state’s population may hit 60 million by 2050.

The impact of this population tsunami is felt everyday in congested roadways, overcrowded schools, poor air quality, stressed biodiversity and diminished quality of life. So it’s difficult to imagine a California that would be better with a population twice the size of the current one.

We, as Californians – as Americans – must decide if we will choose to determine the direction of our country for those who will inherit it. In fact we need to decide if we have a moral responsibility to do so. Or, will we just let the future unfold with no regard to what will be wrought through overpopulation?

That’s something to think about this Earth Day.

Maria Fotopoulos is a senior writing fellow with Californians for Population Stabilization (capsweb.org) and may be reached at [email protected]

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