Earth Day at 50                                           

Wednesday marks a half century of celebration of our Earth, our spaceship. It marks 50 years of action on behalf of environmental preservation.  It marks 50 years since dead rivers burst into flames and the American Bald Eagle and Osprey were all but extinct. And 50 years ago I was a teenage activist who wanted to change the world.

I remember the unbridled enthusiasm and undaunted passion we all had on the first Earth Day for we were doing nothing less than save the planet. My friends and I at Hillcrest JHS and Trumbull High School organized river and roadway cleanups in our home town.  We were part of a movement and ours was one of 10s of thousands of actions that occurred all over our nation that infamous day.  

We filled up six large public works trucks worth of trash and debris from all the main roads in town and our beloved Pequonnock River which is still to this day a Trophy Trout River as listed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.  At the end of a very long day we posed for a picture atop one of the trucks with the First Selectman and the Director of Public Works for the Town (photo below left, I am on the far left). I think everyone was happy with the first Earth Day, so heck, we had 48 more!

We then became activists and and among other things we convinced our Social Studies teacher, Roger Capobianco, and Science teacher Miss Koteas to bring us to an overflow zoning hearing in Stratford where Attorney Garritty represented the Connecticut Conservation Association in their fight to save valuable Lordship marshlands some of which would later be included in the Stewart McKinney Wildlife Refuge. (I think I am the one behind the sign in the photo below on the right).

The first Earth Day we cleaned roadways and the Pequonnock River.  We then lent our voices to the throngs who wanted to stop the destruction of our wetlands.  We became activists!

This year Earth Day will happen virtually because a world-wide plague is sweeping the planet.  A pandemic which reminds us that to continue mankind’s domination mentality over nature and extreme consumption of natural resources is to do so at our own peril.  Fifty years of celebrating Earth has not resulted in mankind living in harmony with nature nor have we left our dominating ways behind. More than any other Earth Day, our future depends on listening to the youth of the planet as they implore us to live in harmony aboard our spaceship.  Greta Thunberg was the same age as I was on the first Earth Day when she began her quest to save the planet from man-made climate change. We better listen to the youth better this time. 

 

Earth’s grandeur can leave the most callous breathless. Yet while we celebrate and acknowledge heart stirring beauty, we must also embrace our total dependence on Earth’s systems,  the unfathomable web of easily compromised complexities, and the futility of human survival without major change in how our species lives within earth’s ecosystem.

 On this day for 50 years we have held rallies, beach and river clean-ups, recycling drives, tree plantings, and educational events. Protecting the environment is still one of the most important issues to people everywhere and Earth Day must be a time to redouble our efforts on all fronts.

This Earth Day also marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 miracle when American Astronauts Lovell, Haise, and Swigert careened home in a severely damaged spacecraft about the size of a minivan.  Those two events are seared in my memory as one. With barely enough fuel or oxygen the environment of Apollo 13, much like earth, was becoming poisoned with the astronauts carbon dioxide and waste and the spaceships life support system was failing and endangering their survival.  Their heroic ordeal has always been a euphemism for our Spaceship Earth. We are so much more like Apollo 13 than we wish to admit. “Houston we have a problem” and “Failure is not an option.”


Earth Day, the largest planet-wide celebration and largest citizen-science event, has accomplished much.  Since the first Earth Day more land has been secured and preserved, endangered species and biodiversity protected, brownfields reclaimed, and major pieces of legislation and enforcement of pollution has been enacted (a list is in the box below).  We accomplished these many things through informed action of a science savvy population and education. Just the kind of informed action and education we support through science education at the Discovery Museum. None of our success would be possible without science and science education because at the very heart of all these challenges lies a scientific problem waiting to be solved!

President George W. Bush said famously that “Earth Day is Every Day!” The Discovery Museum’s educational mission is a great weapon in the daily fight to protect all human beings on all space ships no matter their size – Apollo 13, the ISS, or Earth itself.  What kids and families learn here will help all species of living things on that precious spaceship – every one! Here is a link to our digital content for use during this time of school and museum shut down. https://bit.ly/3cn5U7O  But in addition to education through our programs and exhibits we do even more.

For example:

  • Did you know, the school next door, Discovery Magnet School, focuses on science, and rocket science, from Kindergarten through 8th grade?  Here in the photo below is former Trustee of the Discovery, Claire Gold, who along with me as Mayor of Bridgeport led the effort to locate this Interdistrict Magnet School right alongside the Discovery Museum.

 

Former Discovery Trustee Claire Gold.

  • Did you know that the Adventure Park at Discovery puts 30,000 more people in touch with Nature in a fun and challenging way each year?  And did you know that Pat Matteson, a current Trustee, along with my Mayoral administration, led the effort to locate Bahman Azram’s Adventure Park which is now one of nearly a dozen such facilities he runs across the US.

Pat Matteson and Board of Trustees Chairman at that time, Dan Donovan, owner of NuPower led the fight to locate the Adventure Park on the Discovery Campus bringing over 30,000 visitors to our campus for a unique natural experience.

  • Did you know that Discovery’s cobblestone parking lot is actually recharging millions of gallons of rainwater naturally back into our aquifer and diverting that water from the water treatment plants, saving energy and helping to avoid beach closing pollution overflows?
  • Did you know that all our landscaping is done by MoGreen, a small business founded by Dan Delvanthal, with all-electric equipment with no noise and no pollution? 
  • Did you know we are a community partner with Sustainne a regional network of green, sustainable businesses founded by Fairfield resident Analiese Paik?  
  • Did you know that you can donate up to $1,500 to the Discovery Museum by installing solar on your home.  Installing solar is not only a smart, scientific thing to do, but it saves you lots of money, creates jobs, and fights climate change by reducing your burning of fossil fuels!  Call Trinity Solar today to see if you qualify to help your pocketbook and your planet.

  • Did you know that companies with a significant green commitment like Aquarion, Lockheed Martin, PSEG, People’s Bank, Pitney Bowes, Nu-Power, and others give annually to produce the scientists of the future? 
  • Perhaps most of interest during the pandemic is our automatic overnight disinfectant system that uses a low concentration of ozone, a natural disinfectant, against bacteria, viruses, and mold in our bathrooms. We deliver a high level of cleanliness in an environmentally compatible way – Clean & Green! This product is installed by a Westport small business Fraser Laine.

Perhaps our biggest news is pictured in the banner above: Discovery’s proposed Solar Carport.

 

The banner for this post is a photo rendering of a planned solar carport project at the Museum.  The project will be a 255.85kW carport canopy that will produce 307,022- kilowatt-hours year 1 under a Class I ZREC (zero emissions renewable energy credit) award secured by AEE for the Discovery Museum in the state’s highly competitive ZREC auction.


If approved by local zoning and the Parks Commission this solar carport will:  

  • Save us at least $250,000 in the first 20 years
  • Invest $800,000 in our Discovery Campus
  • Create protected parking  – shaded parking in the summer and parking protected from snow and ice in the winter
  • Create jobs during construction
  • Cost the Discovery Museum $0.

 The Discovery Museum is becoming itself  a living exhibit and the solar energy will meet 100% of the Discovery Museum’s electricity!

So as we heed the call to action on this 50th Earth Day and we redouble our efforts to save our planet let’s remember how much power is in this call to action.  Let us remember what we have accomplished because of our activism. Here is a partial lists of what we have accomplished.

 Environmental Successes Since the first Earth Day April 22, 1970:

  •  Creation of the US EPA chartered to enforce the laws that are to guarantee swimmable, drinkable water and breathable air
  • Passage of the National Environmental Policy Act required among other things the requirement of an Environmental Impact Statement for projects using federal money and the passage of similar Acts in 16 States.
  • Passage of the Ocean Dumping Act
  • Passage of the Federal Water Pollution Act Amendments
  • Passage of the Endangered Species Act
  • Clean Air Act 
  • Safe Drinking Water Act
  • Toxic Substances Control Act

There are no more rivers on fire and we have accomplished many great things.  We have come far in our fight to preserve a habitable environment for future generations but there is far, far more to accomplish.  Since Al Gore’s monumental work, “An Inconvenient Truth” we humans have emitted more greenhouse gases than all recorded human history previously.  That’s right, in light of all the knowledge we have amassed and all our accomplishments, in light of 50 Earth Days, we have failed to regulate the harmful gases we emit which are literally cooking our planet. This is at its heart a scientific problem in want of a solution.  Science matters now more than ever.  Let’s get busy so we have millions more Earth Days ahead. 

Happy Earth Day Everybody!

PS:  Here is link to the Earth Day site so you can be involved today and every day:

 https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-live/

 

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