Since the first Earth Day in 1970, some people have been trying to paint environmentalists as "radicals" who don't really understand the economy. Forty-three years later, as Earth Day is recognized by people in more than 150 countries, Howard Learner says there's nothing "radical" about it. He's president of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, and said curbing pollution creates jobs.
"If you had said to people 20 years ago, 'here's how much wind power will be up and running in the Midwest. There'll be about 10,000 megawatts of power. Iowa will be number two in the country, Illinois number five, Minnesota number six.' Most people would have looked at you and said, 'Well, that's a little out there,'" Learner related.
Today, some call clean energy investments "job killers," although Learner called that a myth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says more than 3 million people now hold 'green' jobs around the country. A half-million are in manufacturing, 370,000 in construction, and nearly 350,000 in professional, scientific and technical services.
The Colorado Senate recently passed a bill to raise renewable energy standards in rural areas, although it's expected to face some opposition in the House. Learner remarked that with more than 70 percent of pollution coming from the energy and transportation sectors, political squabbling solves nothing.
"There are no Democratic forests and there's no Republican rivers, and when we see the extreme weather events happening, I think the public is smart, and the public is telling our policymakers it's time to get serious about solutions," he said.
According to Learner, who considers himself to be something of a myth buster, the biggest myth is that you can't have economic growth and a better environment. He points to companies that use a sustainable approach and still manage to experience growth and business success.
"We can do smart solutions with technological innovation, better solutions in terms of energy, better transportation solutions that make our communities work, that reduce pollution and improve our economy," he declared.
Over the last seven years, Learner said, 11,000 jobs were created in Colorado's renewable energy sector.
Earth Day celebrations now involve about 5,000 environmental groups.
More information is at goo.gl/Ix7Ap and at EarthDay.org.