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Awareness Magazine
5753-G Santa Ana Canyon Rd. #582
Anaheim, CA 92807
(714) 283-3385
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2014— Our 25th Anniversary

It’s A Small Earth, After All

By Carolyn Chase

  What can you say about something you never planned to have happen, but has lasted for 25 years?

I find myself asking that question about EarthFair, the annual Earth Day celebration in Balboa Park. The first one in 1990, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, was supposed to be a single event. But participants demanded a repeat event in 1991, and it has been a solid San Diego tradition ever since.

While EarthFair is the largest single-day event consistently in the Park, the environmental movement it serves has seen good and bad times... many steps forward, but a few backward, as well.

Measure for Measure

We like to measure things in the Earth Day culture. By our internal measures, we’ve directly activated more than 6,200 San Diego volunteers. And that doesn’t count the many volunteers recruited by more than 900 non-profit groups that have used “Earth Day” as their key annual outreach. More than 1,300 businesses have shared their environmental products, services and policies with the public.

And, in round numbers, approximately 1.3 million individuals have attended the Fair since 1990 — close to the current population of the entire city!

Environment, Changes, and Culture

Two decades is long enough to see slow, long-term changes that we miss in our busy daily lives. And we have a lot of reasons to celebrate.

Having the county with the largest number of solar-power installations in the State of California (more than 33,000) is one, reducing fossil fuel consumption and decreasing climate change emissions. Having a Director of Environmental Policy for the City of San Diego is another (working on official Climate Action Plan in addition to many other areas).

Much to my surprise, I witnessed the birth, death and rebirth of the electric car! (Electric vehicles reduce fossil fuel usage and decrease climate change emissions, depending on your sources of electricity). In the 90s, I couldn’t drive roundtrip from San Diego to Encinitas in any electric car. For much of the next decade, there were no electric cars available. I now drive a completely electric vehicle daily, and can get back and forth from North County to San Diego on one charge. San Diego has the third highest number of electric cars in the state.

On the transportation front, Car2Go deploys neighborhood electric vehicles around the city. Regional bicycling plans are taking hold. You can find the arrival time of an approaching MTS bus by texting the code printed on each bus stop sign.

The way we feed ourselves has seen changes, too. Organic produce sections are now common at many supermarkets. Several Community-Supported Agriculture networks deliver local produce. There are now 56 local Farmer’s Markets (see The city encourages community gardens.

Recycling, surprisingly uncommon in 1990, is almost mandatory now, many more items are collected, and there is a “Zero Waste” plan in the works. Electronics waste is regularly collected.

The regional “Multiple Species Conservation Plans” continue to add lands and play a consistent role in the development process. Green building products options have increased. Coronado is home to a new national player for climate change science-based activism: Citizen’s Climate Lobby. San Diego Canyonlands is the recognized group shepherding “Friends of” groups regionally and spearheading restoration and environmentally-sensitive access improvements. Local author Richard Louv’s works on the importance of children’s connections with nature are national best sellers and have spawned networks of children and nature groups nationwide and regionally.

These are signs that there has been a greening of the culture over the time that Earth Day has participated. For new green businesses startups, or for existing businesses testing their innovative green and clean-tech ideas and products, the San Diego region is unmatched, and the annual EarthFair is an irreplacable resource.

Not Enough

But what of it? Earth Day is dogged by the critique that it is not doing physical work to save the environment or legislative work to protect it. A spotlight once a year isn’t enough.

To this I will answer: yes of course. Christmas isn’t enough for Peace on Earth and Valentine’s Day isn’t enough to show your love. It’s a people thing: to have an annual observance, pilgrimage or action that you do in honor of what’s important to you for that occasion. If it’s not your thing — then do your thing for the earth in your way. I never say, or even think, that Earth Day is enough. It’s the daily anniversary that matters. Earth Day is one place to start. Then what you do each day is what adds up.

Activists like myself have to answer the question: will it ever be enough? My answer is: yes. Targets can be measured and adjustments made. Species can be removed from the endangered list. Pollution can be prevented. Contraception can increase.

Regression and Opposition

Sad to say, hard-won environmental victories are often not enough, and worse, can be reversed or voided. Political polarization is worse than ever, stopping efforts to use science to determine policy and to protect water, air, energy, and nature. Fossil fuel interests continue to dominate in political spending and organizing.

Climate change emissions keep rising regardless of efforts. Endangered species continue to decline, especially rhinos, gorillas, polar bears, wild cat species (see

Extinction risk has been evaluated for less than 5% of the world’s described species (See the Red List at www.iucn The human population continues to rise, making more demands on lands and water and habitat for nature.

Fortunately for us, California is a leader in environmental action, and the political assault on the environment has not been as pronounced locally as many other places in the nation.

Vested Interests

In many ways, the success of the environmental movement can be measured by the opposition it generates. This comes from those whose financial or political interests take a hit when new “clean” technologies threaten to replace their more profitable dirty ones.

Regionally, the public transit trolley promised more than 20 years ago still has not even broken ground. Environmental groups have to file lawsuits to enforce what protections are on the books. Climate change reduction plans, while being created, are notably weak; ensuring a safe future will cost some individuals money, and they’re not having it. Maintenance of habitat lands remains an issue.

The plastic bag ban failed to take hold; but it is coming back (and expect to find more than 10,000 sturdy canvas bags being given away this year at EarthFair). The emerging solar power industry is being threatened by regional and national legislative lobbying to increase their costs while discounting their benefits; fossil fuel interests have the funds to make sure that you will have to pay, even if you are generating your own electricity.

I could go on. These anti-environmental counter forces can be discouraging. Yet, oddly, they are a clear positive sign that things are changing: not just some time in the indefinite future, but right now.

Unfortunately, individual actions are not enough. They are part of the picture, but environmental issues always include issues related to impacts on other people or properties which require standards to be enforced for the overall public good.

Earth Day is just one part of the picture — one of the many shades of green required to realize a clean, healthy, prosperous future. I like to think it’s the part that works to inspire kids and adults to be a part of something bigger than themselves and to want to be part of protecting the environment — and to volunteer and support the other groups and businesses that do — or to start their own. Anyone can make any day, an Earth Day.


To be a part of this year’s 25th annual Earth Day observation in Balboa Park on April 27th, visit


Join the Children’s Earth Day Parade “It’s a Small Earth After All”: