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Spokane’s Earth Day ‘takes to the streets’ to reach people

Spokane’s 40th anniversary Earth Day celebration will be on Main St. downtown rather than on grass at Riverfront Park.

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Paul Haeder and Molly Callen on Main St., the venue
for Earth Day 2010.

Co-coordinators Paul Haeder, 53, a teacher, journalist and activist who came to Spokane in 2001, and Molly Callen, 24, a Spokane K-12 substitute teacher who grew up in Spokane, said they are “takin’ it to the streets” because urban life is expanding and because grass uses water, fertilizer and herbicides.

Molly was involved last year with a children’s activity, helping build 350 bird feeders and wanted to expand the educational component.

“I came to an early planning meeting.  Few came, so I became a co-coordinator,” said Molly, who attended Spokane Falls Community College and graduated in 2008 from Eastern Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in reading and elementary education.  “I want children to go home knowing they can grow their own food, plant flowers and make bird houses.”

Along with studies for a master’s in special education and her work substitute teaching, she has volunteered 30 hours a week for Earth Day planning.

Concerned since her teen years about animal rights, environment and human rights, Molly wants to educate people on these causes and finds Earth Day a means to do that.

There will be resources to help people learn how to live sustainably, such as alternative ways to commute without using fossil fuels—bikes, skateboards, long boards and roller skates.

To help meet a goal of drawing low-income people, Second Harvest will be at Earth Day for a two-hour food distribution.

“All we need to do is care,” Molly said.  “Then we can live intentionally and responsibly.”

Co-coordinator Paul was 14 and lived in Tuscon, Ariz., on the first Earth Day in 1970.  He remembers addressing urban sprawl and organizing the religious community to challenge a law that allowed for unregulated trapping of “God’s creatures”—kit fox, bobcats and coyotes.

He began to advocate for sustainability’s three “E’s”—equity, environment and economy.  Now the movement has added two more “E’s”—energy and education.

Through Earth Day, he hopes to inspire a new “green generation” to be active, so the world “will not be inundated in rising sea levels and surpass the tipping points into a total collapse of many of the earth’s eco-systems.”

Paul—who teaches English and literature at Spokane Falls Community College, consults with the college president on sustainability issues, writes a column in The Inlander and does the “Tipping Points: Voices from the Edge” show on KYRS Thin Air Radio—has seen first hand around the globe many parts of the environment reaching the so-called “tipping point.”

“We still have a chance to pull back and take weight off the structure, but we can’t take for granted that it will not collapse,” he said.  “Young people need to reverse the course so the earth will be livable and equitable.

“Without education and social justice, we can’t achieve energy efficiency needed to move into a post-carbon world and we can’t have a sustainable economy,” he said.

Growing up Paul lived in Paris, British Columbia, Munich and the Azores, because his father was in the military.  He earned a degree in biology, journalism and English in 1979 at the University of Arizona and a master’s in English in 1986 at the University of Texas.  Between degrees, he worked for newspapers in Southern Arizona, Mexico, Central America, Europe and Texas.

Influenced the Earth Charter sustainability movement and by liberation theology as his ethos, Paul said his environmental and social justice activism involved him in fighting environmental injustice on the U.S.-Mexican border where major U.S. companies operate sweatshop factories. 

Those factories, maquiladoras, pay Mexican workers $3 to $4 a day to produce consumer goods, using environmentally harmful processes and highly toxic substances, he said.

He is concerned that “many young people today are products of the corporate world and do not know how to live lightly.” 

“They need to gain a green sense and need to follow the operating instructions of Mother Gaia (Earth): We are not to pollute the water or air,” he said. 

Paul wants young people to know that every bite they take, everything they do, every breath they take and every cell phone call they make is political.  He wants to stop the slide into “a Holocaust of all people and genocide of all species.”

He also hopes Earth Day 2010 will reignite the interest of colleges, churches, the city and county to join in planning future Earth Days, expanding interest beyond “conservation groups, hybrid-car drivers and kayakers.”

Citing projections about global trends of population shifts to urban areas—51 percent urban in 2008 to 65 percent by 2030—he said sustainability will require planning and building communities that are denser, pollute less, have more mass transit and engage people in neighborhoods and politics.

“There’s so much work to do,” he said, pointing to challenges of global-warming denial and oil companies’ readiness to exploit reserves in the Arctic after the ice cap melts in 30 years.  “We must do more than the baby-step choices between Styrofoam or paper cups.”

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