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WASHINGTON -- In Earth Day 2000 celebrations around the globe, environmentalists plan to highlight the culprits of global warming and the solutions: renewable energy, including wind and solar.
From Chile to Tokyo, millions are expected to commemorate the
30th anniversary of Earth Day on Apr. 22 by participating in
events in more than 150 nations.
Here in Washington, a rally on Saturday focusing on global
warming will be hosted by actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
While people enjoy live music and theatre, environmental
groups and clean energy companies are expected to demonstrate
various new eco-friendly technologies, such as energy efficient
appliances and devices that run on wind and solar power.
Renewable energy, unlike fossil fuels such as coal, oil and
natural Gas, does not release heat-trapping greenhouse gases
which most scientists believe cause global warming and disrupt
climate and weather patterns.
One of Earth Day's founder, Denis Hayes, says compared to when
the event first started, now the "opportunities are amazing" for
alternative sources of energy.
Hayes, now head of the Seattle-based Bullitt Foundation which
funds environmental projects in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, says
many clean technologies are available, including fuel cells,
solar cells and hydrogen.
Indigenous communities on several continents have joined Earth
Day's clean energy campaign. They say the quest for fossil fuels
has led to the pollution of their land and human rights abuses.
"We call on governmental and international financial
institutions to cease all fossil fuel subsidies and to invest
immediately in clean, renewable and decentralized forms of
energy," says a statement signed by the U'wa of Colombia, the
Ijaw of the Niger Delta, the Mirrar of Australia and the Karen of
In the Niger Delta, it says, the Ijaw and other ethnic
minorities say gas flaring and pollution from oil operations have
fouled the region. In southern Myanmar, formerly Burma, the Karen
said they have been forced to work as "virtual slaves" on the
Yadana gas pipeline for the military and California-based UNOCAL,
its corporate partner.
In the northern mountain region of Colombia, the 5,000-strong
U'wa indigenous group is fighting the plans of Occidental
Petroleum, the U.S. oil giant that wants to drill for oil on land
claimed by the tribe.
In northern Alaska and Canada, the Gwich-in People continue to
oppose attempts by oil companies, including BP Amoco, to gain
access to the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge, said the Earth Day statement. The Refuge is the
birthplace and nursery ground of the caribou herd that the
Gwich-in depend on and consider sacred.
Student environmental organizations, including Sierra Student
Coalition and the Student Environmental Action Coalition, are
supporting the Gwich-in for Earth Day 2000 by organizing a
boycott of London-based BP Amoco.
"The refuge is home to an array of unique biological treasures
whose value is incomparable to the four to six months worth of
oil" the U.S. Geological Survey expects it to contain, says a
statement released by the student groups.
As Earth Day has become more popular since its founding three
decades ago, many companies have begun promoting various eco-
activities. But some corporate sponsors have less than perfect
environmental records, according to the Transnational Action and
Resource Center (TRAC), based in San Francisco.
Ford Motor Company, for example, while funding Time Magazine's
"Heroes for the Planet," a special Earth Day issue out this week,
promotes gas-guzzling cars and Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) that
emit large amounts of carbon dioxide.
Amit Srivastava with TRAC says in the 10 years after global
warming first became a public concern, average vehicle emissions
for Ford actually increased by 7.4 percent, the most of the three
major automobile makers.
In honor of Ford, and other corporate polluters bolstering
their environmental public relations campaigns, TRAC presented
several tongue in cheek "greenwashing" awards.
Ford still downplays the threat of global warming, says
Srivastava. On its website, it says that developing countries
must be part of the solution.
"Nowhere does Ford note that cars and light trucks in the
United States alone account for more CO2 emissions than all but
four countries in the world (the United States, Russia, China and
Japan)," says the environmental group.
Other organizations are rallying behind 90-year old Doris
Haddock for Earth Day 2000. Haddock, known as "Granny D" recently
completed a protest walk across the country calling for campaign
On Friday, she will join environmental groups like Ozone
Action and the Rainforest Action Network on the steps of the
Capitol to unfurl a banner to highlight the influence corporate
campaign contributions to legislators have had on environmental
The stranglehold oil and gas companies have over Congress, for
example, is the main obstacle to ratification of the Kyoto
Protocol on Climate Change, which seeks to reduce the emissions
of greenhouse gases, they argue.
Campaign finance reform is "one reform that can prevent the
pollution and degradation of both our civic and natural
environments," says Haddock.
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