Earth Day 2007: The Power of One
By EV World
Former Congressman Paul 'Pete' McCloskey still sports his U.S. Marine Corps haircut, albeit much grayer and a bit bushier. The winner of the Navy Cross and Silver Star during the Korean War is the same man who in the 1970's was the co-chair of Earth Day and co-sponsored The Endangered Species Act.
McCloskey was one of four keynote speakers [see T. Boone Picken's dialog] at the Alternative Fuel Vehicle's conference and expo held in Anaheim, California earlier this month. He came down from his home in northern California to talk about how the conference attendees can be instrumental in getting the Democratic-controlled Congress to begin implementing legislation and policies that will help the nation reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and "put the nation on a path to less CO2."
"I believe in global warming," he said. "and CO2 (carbon dioxide) is the most dangerous [threat] we have right now."
He praised the companies and individuals who, for the last twenty years, have been working to spread the use of alternatives fuels and vehicles through the federal "Clean Cities" program. But he also said that by better understanding how Congress really works, it will make their jobs easier. Having spent 15 years in Congress, and even having run against Richard Nixon in 1972 on an anti-war platform as a Republican, McCloskey understands how things are done, really done.
As the co-chairman of Earth Day, he recounted how the first Earth Day came about and how the Nixon Administration sent spies in to see if it was, in fact, another anti-war movement. They reported back that it was just a bunch of scantily-glad hippies and nothing to worry about, until the kids turned out just enough votes to unseat a number of anti-environmental Congressmen. Suddenly, Congressmen were asking McCloskey for his speeches on the environment.
He illustrated the power of one near the end of his address, by citing the example of a constituent who insisted on seeing him in his Washington office prior to the committee vote on the Endangered Species Act. She was, he said, most persistent and he decided to give her five minutes of his time. She introduced herself and asked him just one question, How would he vote the following week, up or down, on the inclusion of the Peregrine falcon in the list of endangered species?
Despite his evasions, she wanted a yes or no answer and told him that she was scheduled to board a plane at 4:00 to fly back to San Francisco and that during the flight she would be writing the newsletter for the 800 members of the San Mateo Audubon Society and the 400 members of the Woodside Garden Club.
"Man, I am the first guy into the committee room and we pass that bill. I am gloating [still] because the Peregrine falcon is now killing pigeons over most of the major cities of the United States," he noted with humor. "It's a wicked little bird. Now, we laugh about that, but I just told you what the elements of political power [are]."
To find out how a little gray-haired lady -- and a motley crew of college kids -- helped change a nation's politics and its environment, you will want to listen to McCloskey's 16-minute address. Because we were not permitted to record directly from the auditorium public address system and instead had to utilize the microphone built into our MP3 digital recorder, the audio isn't the best quality. But we think that what the Congressman has to say, especially on this Earth Day, 2007 in the wake of the shift in power in Congress, is important enough to make it available just as we recorded it.
To listen to the speech, use the MP3 players at the top of the page or download the 3.8MB file to your computer hard drive for transfer to your favorite MP3 device.
We thank the AFVi for permitting us to attend the conference and expo, and we'll present other keynotes and interviews from the event in coming installments on EV World.