Friday, June 29, 2012

Earth Day

The first Earth Day, April 22,1970 was organized by Senator Gaylord Nelson as a response to the horrible Santa Barbara oil well blowout of January 1969. Just one month before the spill, the most powerful image of the 20th Century, earthrise over the moon horizon, was shot by astronaut Bill Anders from the Apollo 8 spacecraft. It was the first journey humans had made out of Earth’s orbit. Anders' Earthrise preceded the images of oil-soaked birds and surfers emerging from the waves black from crude oil. 

The blue marble floating in the black void was an unavoidable reminder of our commonality as citizens of planet Earth. The oil-soaked birds were an unavoidable reminder of the human impact on planet Earth. It was the synergy of those two images that became for us as artists a motivating example of what artists as image-makers could do.

In those days, the issue of the environment was not a political football tossed around casually as it is today—the decade of the 70's became a Golden Age of environmentalism — DDT was banned, the EPA was created, the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts were signed into law, the Superfund law—even Nixon gave speeches urging environmental legislation. In 1980 Reagan reversed the trend, cornering and Balkanizing environmentalism into becoming just another "special interest."

Just this April 7, 2011 the House passed an anti-EPA bit of legislation forbidding regulation on greenhouse gasses. How hard is it to realize—no air, no water, no life? Anti-environmentalists argue that dire predictions made that first Earth Day never came true. Fact is-they didn’t come true because the legislation prevented many, many environmental disasters.

So, here we are again headed out for Kehoe, feeling that maybe taking one miniscule bit of the planet, where the ocean meets the land, we can tell the story of what is happening planet-wide and maybe telling it with some good humor, some heart felt grief, and just the weird geeky-ness of having done this for years now. Can this be a way to open the mind to action?

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