Earth Day: Success or Failure?

Here’s my latest video on Earth Day:

Yesterday was Earth Day, and it got me wondering: is it a success or a failure?

History of the Equinox Earth Day (March 20)

Earth Day originally started as a celebration of the spring equinox or the very first day of spring.  

The idea of a global holiday was the brainchild of John McConnell, an activist for peace, science and religion.  He proposed the idea at the 1969 UNESCO Conference on the Environment.

The first Earth Day was proclaimed in San Francisco on March 21st, 1970.  A year later, the United Nations followed suit.

It has been celebrated every year at the United Nations by the ringing of the Japanese Peace Bell at the exact moment of the equinox.

At first, Earth Day celebrated peace, but there was a parallel movement which wanted the environment to be an equal concern.

April 22 observance

The environmental Earth Day was motivated by a blowout on an oil rig off the coast of Santa Barbara, California on January 28, 1969.

It was Morton Hilbert and his students who worked to bring Earth Day as an environmental activism day in April 1970.

The chosen date of April 22nd was a rational one.  U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson chose the date  because it didn’t fall during exams or spring breaks, thus maximizing the involvement of college students.

The original April 22nd Earth Day was to occur every ten years starting in 1970, but the need for educating the population as to the dangers to the environment caused the celebration to become an annual event.

The first Canadian Earth Day was held in 1980, promoted by and engineering graduate student at Queen’s University.

But since the year 2000, the world has been observing April 22 as Earth Day.  Even the United Nations celebrates both the March 20th and April 22nd Earth Days.

Success or Failure?

I’ve seen both serious environmental consciousness and disregard since I became an engineer in the late 1980’s.  I’ve seen activism for the planet and the greed of big business, but I think the real victim is the truth.  Not the planet.  The planet is doing fine.  If human beings become extinct, life will continue on this planet.

The truth has been taken hostage by interest groups who have failed in one major way:  they have not learned the science.  It’s been replaced by emotional arguments.  The only unbiased expressions of truth are math and science.  

Let’s take the current debates about pipelines, for example.

I’m an engineer and I’ve worked in the oil and gas industry, so I know what I’m talking about.  Most of the design engineers I’ve known want to build the most perfect, safe and environmentally sound pipelines they can think of.  Unfortunately, they are shackled by their financial and managerial overlords who don’t want to spend the money.  The designs are therefore a compromise between environmental concerns and profitability.  As long as the design stays within the law.

On the other side, I’ve heard hundreds of protesters who don’t know a single thing about steel grades for pipes, sacrificial anodes, ball valves or butterfly valves, the Reynold’s Transport equation for fluids, potential differences, instrumentation, communications or even the newest technologies using fibre optics to pinpoint leaks.

It’s a debate of the deaf lambasting the deaf.

Human greed, the thirst for power, the desire for ressources and obstinacy have not really changed in the last 65,000 years of human evolution.  I don’t really expect it to change in the next 50 or 100.

Earth Day is not having the desired impact.  In my rating system, I give it one hammer only.

We’ve got the re-think Earth Day, re-emphasize learning science and math.  This is no joke, the future of the human race depends on it.

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