'Bell-Bottoms and Gas Masks' ... A Look at the First Earth Day

Happy earth day everyone. The Rumpus has a great interview with Denis Hayes, who "coordinated the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, when 20 million people took to the streets and kicked off the environmental movement." Hayes discusses the popularity of the environmentalism during the 70s, the dark times of the Reagan administration, and his hopes for the future:


Rumpus: Let’s say that President Obama made you climate & energy czar. What five big actions would you take?

Hayes: Big actions, in our system of checks and balances, require approval by Congress and have to pass constitutional muster by the Supreme Court, and some powers are reserved to the states. So this overused “czar” word is a little misleading. But the things America ought to do should include the following:

1. An aggressive building performance standard for all new buildings, and a set of performance requirements to be met by all buildings before they can be sold (when upgrades can be included in the new mortgage). These should encompass heating and cooling, lighting, and plug loads. Coupled with new efficiency standards for appliances, lights, and furnaces, this should reduce the energy consumption of new buildings by 50 percent, more or less immediately, and go on from there.

2. If the government is going to put money into the automobile sector, it should break up GM and Chrysler as a condition of financial aid, and it should be even-handed in its treatment of start-up firms like Tesla, Miles, Fisker, and others. It would be terrible to kill the entrepreneurs who have taken great risks to bring new automotive technologies to market by pumping tax dollars into the behemoths that have done everything wrong for the last 40 years. That, coupled with a $4 per gallon tax on gasoline, phased in over four years, and bonuses for junking old inefficient cars would transform personal transportation swiftly.

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