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Earth Day 2005: Time for Green to get Red

May 11, 2005

from Freedom Socialist, Vol. 26, No.2, April-May 2005,

In 1962, Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book, Silent Spring, awakened an entire generation to the threat of a “spring without voices.” The environmental movement that emerged in response to urgent calls such as Carson’s accomplished enough change to bring birds like the bald eagle back from the brink of extinction.

Yet this April 15, Earth Day, there is little to celebrate. The change has proven to be not nearly enough. Forty-three years after Carson’s book appeared, her dire predictions about ecosystems unraveling are coming to pass.

Researchers call amphibians the “canary in the coal mine” because their permeable skin makes them especially sensitive to environmental disturbance. Today, 32 percent of these species face extinction due to deforestation, pollution, habitat loss and climate shifts. Humans are also not immune, as shown by alarming rates of asthma, especially in poor communities where pollutants get dumped most.

Despite all this, here in the U.S., laws like the Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts, wholly inadequate, are endangered themselves. Auto and oil industry executives try multiple tactics, from lawsuits to lobbying, to attack even the most pathetic half-measures, like California’s new air pollution standards. And corporations like Bechtel plot how to privatize life-giving resources such as water — as it becomes more precious thanks to pollution caused by corporations like, you guessed it, Bechtel!

The era of polite lobbying and piecemeal reforms has to end. The planet’s dire situation calls for more fundamental change. We need serious solutions like mass, free rapid transit, strict regulation of smokestack industries, laws to force corporate polluters to clean up their messes worldwide, and much more. Such measures won’t be won without going to war against the corporations and the whole capitalist system that enshrines their profits. It is time for environmentalists to take it on — for the sake of human survival and the springs to come.

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