Many have noted the tragic and hugely ironic coincidence that some of the biggest environmental catastrophes have happened on or around Earth Day. Think about it...
The Deepwater Horizon blew out last year on April 20th, and sank two days later -- on Earth Day, 2010. That day BP CEO Tony Hayward (in a lawsuit against Halliburton & Transocean) claimed the oil giant was not at fault.
The very same Earth Day, Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship stated that the Big Branch Coal Mine disaster, which took the lives of 25 miners just a few weeks prior, again was likely not the fault of the coal giant and may have resulted from a "natural occurring phenomenon."
Now one year later to the day, the blowout of a natural gas fracking well in Bradford County, Pennsylvania made headline news with the threat of thousands of gallons of toxic compounds entering the water supply.
The timing of that one was coincidental not only because it was the anniversary of the Gulf spill, but because the debate over fracking had just reached a feverish pitch. A study released on April 12 showed that the global warming impact of shale gas wells is worse than coal due to the methane leaks which are inherent to the process of fracking, and just last month another report was released linking natural gas fracking to increased earthquake activity.
So we've got a coal disaster, an oil disaster, and a natural gas disaster. But this curious series of coincidences does not end with fossil fuels. The Three Mile Island nuclear accident, which happened just a few weeks before Earth Day 1979, was a wake-up call for environmentalists who came out in the tens of thousands to protest nuclear power. Seven years later we had Chernobyl on April 26, 1986.
Often when a series of bizarre coincidences occur in sequence we humans are prone to come up with an explanation, and those often take the form of a conspiracy theory. Last year, the creative people at Fox News came up with an interesting explanation - the BP oil spill was a conspiracy by environmentalists (and President Obama) to take down our poor, assaulted petroleum industry (an industry which BTW had record-setting profits in 2009 along with hundreds of filed safety violations, yet somehow managed to pay no U.S. taxes).
The Glenn Beck Show even went so far as to say that naturally occurring crude oil leakage from the ocean floor was comparable to the BP oil spill, and that "Mother Nature has a way of taking care of these sorts of things."
I don't know about you, but if I were Mother Nature I would be pretty pissed right about now. I should be ashamed to admit this, but one of the consequences of being a childhood TV addict is that whenever I think of Mother Nature I picture the woman in that old margarine commercial from the 1970s who shouts, "It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature!" as the sound of a thunderstorm erupts in the background. I'm thinking if she can get that mad about replacing butter with margarine, surely she has some wrath in store for the men who irresponsibly pillage her resources and then attempt to blame her for their manufactured disasters.
In all seriousness, the First Earth Day in 1970 was sparked by the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969, the largest spill in US waters at the time. It was the brainchild of former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, conceived as a nationwide teach-in on environmental issues. It was a bipartisan initiative, co-chaired by Senator Pete McCloskey. And it was the start of an unprecedented effort to establish an environmental legal and regulatory framework, notably signed into law by archconservative President Nixon.
Today was the 41st anniversary of that first Earth Day, and it was celebrated all over the world. The tweets on #EarthDay were a veritable cascade, scrolling by so fast that I could barely read them and many referenced the disasters listed above.
Hopefully Mother Nature has a Twitter account and will stay her hand as we attempt to expose the real Earth Day conspiracy - that a handful of companies are putting the lives of billions at risk and trading away the future of our beautiful, abundant planet for next quarter's profit report.