Earth Day Engages and Saddens

So you went to Wayzgoose. And like me, you were distracted by the music, the crowds, the noise, and the food. Everyone was either pumping up the volume or pumping out the grub.
But off to one side, on the high ground near Rowland Hall and BC’s Cavern, something important was happening: Earth Day. A low-key celebration of solutions to make a difference in the bitter struggle for Planet Earth, this series of events and handful of booths suffered reduced attendance due to the sheer volume of competition.
What exactly did you miss? Two words: ‘wilderness’ and ‘solar.’ No fewer than five organizations offered fairgoers the opportunity to get involved in efforts to either protect or restore Orange County wilderness/wetlands areas, including Amigos de Bolsa Chica, the California Coastal Commission, Friends of the Foothills, the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land.
According to Todd Leslie of Friends of the Foothills, the World Wildlife Fund has designated O.C. as one of the world’s top 25 ‘hot spots,’ ecologically sensitive areas that collectively support as much as 40 percent of the earth’s species. Who knew?
Swamp denizens of another sort were in attendance also: politicians. Beth Krom, our newly elected mayor of Irvine, made an appearance early in the program; Karl Warkomski, mayor of Aliso Viejo and a perennial champion of environmental issues, came immediately after.
Also prominently on display were two EV1 solar vehicles and a panel of rooftop-mounted photovoltaic cells that could easily recharge them. This was perhaps the saddest feature of Earth Day because automakers and Congress recently succeeded in killing off the U.S. electric vehicle industry. General Motors, in particular, led the charge, insisting that as many as possible of the 1,300 RAV-4-based vehicles be hauled off to the Arizona desert and flattened. Fewer than 300 survive despite buyers’ desperate pleas that they be allowed to pay cash for, and thereby keep, their beloved electrics.
Why this hostility on the part of automakers and government? Simply put, the EVs were too efficient. They cost less than $10 per month to operate and required almost no repairs over the life of the vehicle. Manufacturers, the auto repair industry and the oil industry would all have taken a hit to the bottom line.
They thought it was better to promote the hybrids, which address perceived need without severing the consumer’s dependence on expensive gas, car repairs, and replace-ment vehicles.
Bill Korthof, owner of one of the two EV1s and president of EE Solar, expressed little sympathy for this business ethic.
‘GM is getting what they deserve. Toyota’s going to bank-rupt them and I’m glad to see it,’ Korthof said. Toyota manufactures the Prius hybrid as well as its standard line of fuel-efficient vehicles and is expected to outperform GM in the U.S. automobile market.
Even if you couldn’t buy a green vehicle, however, you could still join the party. At the Green Party of California booth Susan Sayre, a member of the party’s Orange County council, explained why differences exist between county, state, and national platforms. Greens are carefully ‘consensus seeking’ in all they do, which may come as a refreshing change to anyone accustomed to the major parties’ ‘one size fits all’ approach. Then again, it might not.
According to Sayre and others at the booth, there are approximately 160,000 registered Greens in California and it is the state’s fastest-growing political party.
The Greens may have backed Ralph Nader in the election, but people at the CalPIRG booth were adamant that there has never been a connection between Nader and their organization. They are strictly non-partisan and urge anyone who might have thought otherwise to take another look. Current CalPIRG campaigns include fighting for laws that promote solar-energy homes, and a new outreach program designed to promote the ‘spirit of activism’ in high school students.
If planting the seeds of awareness isn’t what you had in mind, then perhaps planting a real seed is.
Find out how to get involved in any of the worthy causes represented at Earth Day, from recycling on-campus to cycling off-campus and getting your hands and bottom really dirty, by contacting the UCI Volunteer Center by visiting their web site, www.volunteer.uci.edu.