Have a little hope

Jeff vonKaenel

I had a great time at the Earth Day festival. Earth Day is an odd duck. Not a real holiday, like Presidents' Day or Martin Luther King Jr. Day, where government employees and bankers do not have to work. But it's more of a holiday than Administrative Professionals Day and Boss's Day. Those days are really just about selling greeting cards.

I did not receive any Hallmark cards for Earth Day. I did not see any special Earth Day sales where everything “green” related was 15-percent off. Nevertheless, the 44th annual celebration of Earth Day still meant something to me.

When I was a student at UC Santa Barbara, I attended the very cutting-edge first Earth Day festival. So, for me, Earth Day festivals are also a time to reflect on the many changes in the environmental movement over the last four decades.

This is, of course, a very mixed bag. There have been huge advances: the removal of leaded gas, the use of carbon trading and energy-efficient housing. The victories are huge. Yet, at the same time, all the efforts seem to be too little too late. Global warming is already occurring. And I believe its impact will be of biblical proportions.

Nevertheless, I still have hope. Hope of a Hail Mary breakthrough that saves the planet. Hope that we can play a role in minimizing the damage. So I went down to the Environmental Council of Sacramento’s Earth Day celebration at Southside Park on April 19. This was a low-key event. No major acts, a solid but modest crowd; it was a free community event with music, food and booths.

I dropped in at many of the booths, usually talking with an unpaid volunteer who was willing to sit behind a table on a beautiful sunny day. The presentations were not smooth or canned. Instead, I heard about the dangers of fracking, the protection of animals, concerns about a strong mayor, the hopes of young Democrats, the wonders of vegetarian eating, the need to tax stock trades, and more. Every presentation had real information, given by someone who cared. Cared enough to give up their Saturday afternoon to sit at a table and wait for someone like me to come by.

I was moved. After talking with someone for a few minutes, I sometimes told them I worked for SN&R. Often they would encourage me to write a story about their subject. If we printed all of the stories suggested to me on Earth Day, the paper would be so heavy that our distribution staff could not lift one paper, let alone a bundle of 50.

Spending a sunny afternoon with people who cared enough to freely give their time was better than an Earth Day card or a green sale. It was a little hope break. Hope for the planet. And hope for the people on it.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.