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Ralph Nader

Earth Day 2011: Reflections on Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader 51%

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As Earth Day 2011 approaches, it's nice to take a moment to reflect back on how far we've come in the environmental movement. Although enormous progress has been made, as an environmental activist, I often feel overwhelmed by the daily onslaught of bad news: the nuclear disaster in Japan, the mysterious "white nose syndrome" killing bats at an alarming pace, and mountaintop removal coal mining is still devastating Appalachia.

While dining recently with some Tennessee Sierra Club members, we discussed the aging of the mainstream environmental movement. I thought of the black and white photos of the first Earth Day in 1970 -- the crowd was so young that it looked like Woodstock. While there are some healthy pockets of youth and climate activism today, the membership of the traditional environmental organizations is definitely graying. Why aren't there masses of youth joining the major environmental groups as they did in the 1970s?

"Well, we won," said my dinner companion. "People have forgotten how bad things really were in the 1960s."

I think my friend may be right. Last week I picked up the book Citizen Nader by Charles McCarry, first published in 1972, and read a grim account of industrial pollution in Appalachia in the 1960s and early '7. s.

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