• U.S.

Activism: Saving The Planet Starts At Home

5 minute read
Nadya Labi

Better find a hole to crawl into if you don’t want to take part in Earth Day 2000. Organizers expect the multitudes celebrating the 30th anniversary of the original Earth Day to be half a billion strong, from the throngs planning to gather in Washington and Hong Kong to countless individuals ready to join in via the Internet. The theme is finding solutions to global warming: cars will be banned from some streets in Rome; Mexico City will send 30,000 students out to plant seedlings (new trees soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide); and the Earth Day Energy Fast campaign, based in Los Angeles, will urge folks to shut off appliances for 24 hours. For a rundown on events, visit www.earthday.net But saving the planet obviously isn’t a one-day proposition. Here’s a sampling of how grass-roots groups plan to keep the faith even when April 22 is just a memory:

BIKER CHIC www.bike.org.il/taba It’s easy to mistake the last Friday of every month for Mardi Gras in downtown Tel Aviv. That’s when 100 cyclists ride through the streets, some wearing carnival shirts, wigs and clown outfits. The bikeathons, organized by activist Emily Silverman, try to draw attention to the Israeli city’s polluted air. In response, city hall has approved the group’s plan for 16 miles (26 km) of bike paths, which will cost $9 million to build.

THE BUS WITHOUT WHEELS www.greenestcity.org There was a time, even in wealthy countries, when lots of kids didn’t need an SUV or a big yellow bus to get to school. In a throwback to simpler days, Canadian activists are touting “the Walking School Bus,” a pollution-free mode of transportation that requires only two legs and an energetic spirit. The Greenest City, a Toronto group, encourages children from the same neighborhood to walk to school together–with one adult chaperone for every four kids. Forty schools have signed up so far.

GOING BATTY www.bats.org.uk The creatures of the night have found some friends in Britain. Nearly 100 bat groups are monitoring and surveying the 16 species found across the country. Volunteers can become licensed bat inspectors, organize bat watches and nurse those that are sick and wounded. They can also visit bat roosts and educate leery homeowners about how to fix their roofs or lay insulation without harming the animals.

CALLING ALL CRANES The relationship between Japan and cranes has been a strained one. World War II disturbed their natural habitats, and the subsequent decline of the country’s wetlands kept the birds away. But now a group on the island of Shikoku aims to woo them back. The Kanonji Society to Call Back the Cranes is promoting cleanup efforts and raising money to preserve crane habitats. The group also plans to broadcast crane sounds at volumes loud enough to attract any of the birds flying overhead.

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE www.foe.org.hk Braving the threat of high-altitude sickness, Chinese volunteers are traveling to the Qinghai Tibetan Plateau, the source of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, to plant drought-resistant shrubs and trees intended to halt soil erosion. They are also sending bottles downstream with messages urging water conservation and an end to logging in critical areas along the river.

ORPHANS NO MORE http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/trails_and_waterways/adopt_river.html Minnesota’s rivers are in need of some tender loving care, so the state is encouraging volunteers to “adopt” a section of a lake, river, wetland or ravine. With the free rubbish bags and gloves provided by the Adopt-a-River program, “parents” are expected to clean up their sites and report their progress. The state keeps track of the amount of garbage collected, the hours of labor expended and the kind of debris found. Even kids can be parents: the program offers a “fun book” for grade-school children who want to participate.

TIME TO ACT? YOU DECIDE www.actionnetwork.org Want to make your voice heard? A network formed by Environmental Defense and 24 other nonprofit groups and coalitions will send you alerts about the eco-issues that interest you most. You simply click REPLY to these e-mail messages to generate a letter (which you can edit) that will be delivered either as an e-mail or a fax to the appropriate parties. You also have the option of responding on your own home page, which will keep a record of your views. The network already boasts 400,000 activists.

MAKE IT SPARKLE www.cleanup.com.au Talk about a big job. Clean Up Australia was founded by builder and sailor Ian Kiernan in 1989 to clean up Sydney Harbor. The program has since spread to 850 towns and cities throughout the country–and spawned the global entity Clean Up the World. To date, more than 2.5 million Australians have pitched in.

FLIGHTS OF FANCY www.grupo100@laneta.apc.org Homero Aridjis, a Mexican poet and novelist, doesn’t take his subjects for granted. His latest book, Butterfly Mountain, is set in a region in west-central Mexico that is a breeding ground for monarch butterflies. In 1986 he waged a successful campaign to designate havens for the species. Now his Group of 100, comprising like-minded intellectuals, has launched a campaign to save the habitats from renegade loggers.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com