Earth Day at 40 In Brooklyn

I actually have some memories of the very first Earth Day 40 years ago today.

I was in high school in Queens, New York. The memories are, in fact, sort of vague, but I remember going to some headquarters in "the City" (note to readers not raised in NYC - calling Manhattan "the City" is a sure sign of someone who is from one of the other four NYC boroughs) where folks were doing things like making signs; writing something on a piece of cardboard, like "save the earth," tacking it onto a wooden stick, and going out to demonstrate somewhere was our social media back then.

I'm not sure exactly what I did, but I know I did something. It's the first time I can remember taking part in a collective social/political action; the same was true for many of my friends. The burgeoning women's rights and civil rights movements had, to a great degree, paved the way for this environmental movement.

But, of course, even back then, there were groups and folks who were already concerned about the environment, long before the first official Earth Day.

No movement ever just springs up; there are always forerunners, and most of them do their work, day to day, in relative obscurity.

These are the people who have a kind of vision, a big picture that others simply don't have. Almost all of these big picture people, no matter what "movement" they hail from, understand one important thing - it's all connected. Everything.

In today's NY Times, there's an interesting discussion that Andrew Revkin has with Robert Stone, an award winning filmmaker whose most recent film is "Earth Days."

While I'm not going to go into a detailed discussion about the interview, one thing did seem to jump out - the whole world is now your neighborhood. At least that's what we need to see. It challenges some of the ways in which Americans, in particular, view themselves and this country. The environment - as the environmental justice movement proved - is where you are right now. If we really want to "save the planet" (by the way, I think the planet will actually be's the human race's survival we have to worry about), we all have to get that.

How do we do it?

There's a lot of discussion and even controversy about how we go about all of this.
But, one thing is clear - we all need to change our thinking, and we all have to practice what we preach about the "environment" every single day. Buying a fuel efficient car or packing your groceries in a reusable bag is simply not enough. If you think that's all you have to do, you're not getting it.

Fortunately, we all have good environmental role models. These are the people and groups who toil, every single day, for a better environment, no matter what. For them, every day is Earth Day. They are everywhere, and they are in your neighborhood; I'm sure of it.

Here in Brooklyn, we are taking out some time on this environmentally symbolic day to honor some of those groups and people.

URBAN|RE-GEN a new initiative by Broadway Stages, is holding an "Urban Heroes" luncheon today in Greenpoint, Brooklyn to do just that. And the food served - local and organic produce and food from local restaurants. The groups' identities have been kept secret until today. Taken together, they represent more than 100 years of service to the greater environment/environmental justice movement and to their communities.

Here they are:

Click on the names of the groups to learn more about them. As Gina Argento, Broadway Stages' principal and one of the founders of URBAN|RE-GEN said, "These groups are the ones who have been working not just on or for Earth Day, but 365 days a year to see that New York becomes a greener, cleaner, healthier place to live. It's people, it's businesses and it's all of our future."

All of this Earth Day/environmental talk can actually be confusing. So, this Earth Day, here's one thing you can do. Look for your own Urban Heroes, those folks and organizations in your community for whom Earth Day is a 24/7 job, a way of living, a "big picture" endeavor with local impacts. Honor them; join with them; do something that starts today but doesn't end at midnight.