Warming up to Earth Day

National | Environmental protesters hit the streets in Washington, but opponents issue their own declaration

Issue: "Back to no future," April 22, 2000

Unlike the planet, whose average temperatures stubbornly refuse to rise to meet the expectations of alarmists with computer models, Washington, D.C., is warming up with the approach of the 30th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22. On April 10 environmentalist protesters were arrested for climbing fences and cutting razor wire installed to protect the premises of the World Bank and for chaining themselves to a rental truck used to block rush-hour traffic. Among those apprehended: John Passacantando, executive director of Ozone Action, and Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth. District police advised merchants to prepare for violence in the week leading up to Earth Day similar to what hit Seattle during the recent protests of World Trade Organization meetings (see WORLD, April 1). Not all the Earth Day observances take the form of protests-violent or otherwise. EarthFair 2000, with festivities in Washington, New York, and many other cities around the world, includes educational activities and concerts. In Washington it will be chaired by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, with feature performances by Carole King, Clint Black, Keb' Mo', Indigenous, Sweet Honey and the Rock, Ted Danson, Edward James Olmos, Melanie Griffith, and others. New Yorkers planned to get in early with their own EarthFair on April 16, billed as "a one day environmental theme park filled with music, activities, and interactive exhibits." No estimates were offered as to how much energy would be used to power the event and transport celebrants to it. While some Americans might think the mild winter and early spring they've just experienced confirm global warming predictions-and might even like the idea after paying smaller heating bills-the rest of the globe's climate isn't cooperating. Temperature records for the planet as a whole put both January and February below the 1979-1998 mean global average temperature, and the records for the last two decades continue to show insufficient warming trend to be distinguished from natural variability. Winter hit early and hard across Mongolia and northern China. The extraordinarily cold weather and heavy blizzards starting in September wreaked havoc for the 2.4 million Mongolians, mostly nomadic herdsmen, killing over 1.4 million head of livestock by late March, with an estimated 300,000 more animals dying each week. With food stocks of dried and frozen meat dwindling there, starvation deaths have begun and the Red Cross predicts more to come. Meanwhile, the April 4 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives included a major research paper by a team of researchers from the U.S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change. The researchers "found no conclusive evidence to justify ... fears" of health hazards related to global warming but instead concluded that "the levels of uncertainty preclude any definitive statement on the direction of potential future change for each of [five categories of] health outcomes." They did, however, identify "some positive health outcomes, notably reduced cold-weather mortality." Not every environment-related event in Washington in the weeks leading up to Earth Day fit the alarmist mold. The newly formed Interfaith Council on Environmental Stewardship (ICES) (www.stewards.net) planned to release on April 17 The Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship, endorsed by Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant religious leaders as well as scientists and economists. The Declaration, supported by three major monographs integrating theology, ethics, and science from the three religious perspectives, asserts that many environmental dangers, including global warming, overpopulation, and species extinction, are badly exaggerated. "Public policies to combat exaggerated risks," it adds, "can dangerously delay or reverse the economic development necessary to improve not only human life but also human stewardship of the environment. The poor, who are most often citizens of developing nations, are often forced to suffer longer in poverty with its attendant high rates of malnutrition, disease, and mortality; as a consequence, they are often the most injured by such misguided, though well-intended, policies."

-WORLD correspondent E. Calvin Beisner helped organize the Interfaith Council on Environmental Stewardship.

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