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Engaging Earth Days visually stunning
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Engaging Earth Days visually stunning

by Rev. Barbara Allen - SGN Contributing Writer

Earth Days
Opening December 11


Many of us remember a time when few were concerned about "going green." Earth Days takes us back to the dawn and development of our current environmental movement. It's visually stunning, awe-inspiring, and will capture you in its first five minutes.

Unfortunately, the concepts of environmental consciousness did not capture many folk's interest until the late 1950s and since. It's been, and remains, a long struggle - perhaps "battle" would be a better word, in that some of us are fighting for our survival.

This Robert Stone film takes us back in time to remember, or learn for the first time, in an almost poetic way, humanity's complex relationship with nature.

This is an engaging history of our American revolutionary achievements and missed opportunities. It is a life and death story we need to learn, understand, and act upon.

Slowly, gradually, for 100 or so minutes, the bits and pieces of people, struggles, losses and achievements come together to present a map showing where we were, and how things went horribly wrong. It's a story of dedication and courage as a handful of men and women became enlightened and, in turn, create positive, ongoing change. Ultimately, our lives and futures are in our own hands.

As Al Gore and David Suzuki point out, we may be past the point of no return on what Adlai Stevenson called "spaceship earth."

It's an extraordinary story of the era's pioneers, including former Secretary of the Interior Steward Udall, biologist and Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich, Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand, astronaut Rusty Schweikart, and renewable energy pioneer Hunger Lovins. There's archival footage most of us have never seen before, and will enjoy.

In the 1950s, a small group of scientists began documenting the impact of technology on our planetary ecosystem. The post-World War II dream of a better world through science, technology and economic growth - in short, the American dream - turned into a nightmare.

Earth's human population doubled, then doubled again. The mass starvation predicted earlier became a sickening reality. Ninety percent of our rivers became heavily contaminated with industrial pollution, agricultural runoff, and human waste. Dangerous pesticides such as DDT brought the American bald eagle, our national symbol, to the brink of extinction!

Some industrialists seemed to respond, but failed. Ford hoped to be mass-producing electric cars by 1975 - which still hasn't happened.

President Jimmy Carter outlined a plan to reduce oil imports and improve energy efficiency. He installed solar panels on the roof of the White House in 1979, and invested in renewable energy research which he hoped would allow for 20% of US energy to come from renewable resources by the year 2000.

When Ronald Reagan became president, he had the solar panels removed from the White House, and cut crucial energy efficiency funding by 80%.

Where long ago Republicans seemed more ecologically conscious than Democrats, that ceased to be the case with one exception: Pete McClosky, Republican congressmen from California from 1967 to 1983, became co-chair of the original Earth Day, along with Senator Gaylord Nelson. McClosky is credited with authoring the Endangered Species Act, and has been an outspoken critic of the way many of his Republican colleagues have continued to ignore environmental issues. McClosky recently left the Republican party and became a Democrat.

Astronaut and Apollo 9 Lunar Module Pilot Rusty Schweikart was temporarily stranded outside the space capsule in 1969 and had a transforming encounter looking down at Earth. In 1977, Schweikart served as California Governor Jerry Brown's assistant for science and technology, later becoming the state's commissioner of energy in 1979.

This documentary is not a grim recitation of our failures, but rather a wake-up call for all of us.

Hopefully it will soon become available on DVD so that every school in America can show it to their students, and every educator lead discussions about Earth Day, what it means and stands for, and why it's urgent that we all awaken.

In some ways, the struggle for Gay Rights has undergone, and continues to undergo, a similar process, with narrow-minded foes blocking the way to human evolution and understanding. In each struggle, some progress is made and some progress is reversed, and much more is needed.

Earth Days opens at the Varsity Theater in Seattle for one week on December 11. Denis Hayes is scheduled to appear in person at the early evening showings on December 11 and December 12 for a post-screening discussion. For more information, visit www.earthdaysmovie.com.

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