Earth Day Founder Exclusive Interview
|November 20, 2006||Posted by Adam J. Monroe under Archive, Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Exclusive Interview with Earth Day’s Founder
The Dean of Green
Earth Day this year is Friday, March 20. The Founder of Earth Day is a remarkable man named John McConnell. Here is our EXCLUSIVE interview with this geoist gentleman.
by Adam Jon Monroe, Jr.
March 16th, 1998
Progress Report – Mr. McConnell, you are 82 years old and have been a seriously devout environmental, as well as social and even economic activist for your entire life. You are an inspiring writer, speaker and thinker. You are, without a doubt, the greatest founding father of the environmental movement alive today and your proposals are simple, logical, time-tested reforms against which few could convincingly debate. In addition, as anyone can see who reads over your website , you have a very clear and positive vision of America and the world’s possibilities for the future. How can it be in these circumstances that you haven’t run for political office? Why hasn’t the Green Party taken advantage of those bright eyes and bright ideas of yours? Have your views on taxation and private property kept you out of favor with the Green Party’s financial contributors? Has sticking to your ideals cost you some of your ambitions?
JOHN McCONNELL – My vision has been to influence and inspire leaders – rather than replace them.
Progress Report – Has any official representative of either of the ‘Green Parties’ ever inquired about your willingness to run for office?
JOHN McCONNELL – No. No, I haven’t been approached in that way. On one of my websites, there is a little statement that’s titled “What I Would Do if I Were President” and that expressed some of my views particularly regarding the matter of economics.
Progress Report – Have they ever asked you to speak at any rallies or anything?
JOHN McCONNELL – No. No, the Green Party, that’s a late-comer in my view (chuckling).
Progress Report – Why do you suppose they haven’t asked you to do something like that?
JOHN McCONNELL – Oh, they’ve invited me to attend their meetings, but I’ve been too busy to do that.
Progress Report – If you were asked by them to run for office, would you do be willing to do so?
JOHN McCONNELL – No, not at this point. I’m 82 years of age. I have to be practical. I feel that there are wonderful younger people with great potentials and if I can influence or if I can impart the vision I have enough that it really moves them emotionally as well as intellectually, why, that’s great.
Progress Report – Why are there two almost identical “Green Parties”? Is this confusion being manufactured intentionally? What is the purpose of such de-focusing of the environmental movement’s political power?
JOHN McCONNELL – Often the quest for power will override a party’s purpose.
Progress Report – What about this ‘other’ so-called “Earth Day”? Isn’t ‘focus’ the whole idea of celebrating an Earth ‘day’? Is there some professional activism going on to keep the public economically ignorant and/or ecologically ineffective? Also, how can this diffusion problem be repaired?
JOHN McCONNELL – I think it’s just a lack of thinking in depth about the whole picture. I was just thinking about The Rotary Club. They were asking about the April 22 ‘Earth Day’. I didn’t think to respond this way, but I, perhaps, should have said, “Well, how would you like it if there was another organization that was doing good things, but, they decided to use your name? They would call themselves ‘The Rotary Club’? You know that wouldn’t set well with you when you had developed an image and an effort.” So, I feel that whether it’s on April 22, or Arbor Day, which is great, or World Environment Day, in fact I get e-mail, now, from people who are calling every day under the sun (chuckling); they’re going to have an ‘Earth Day’ celebration in May. So, picking arbitrary dates and having events, that’s great, but I wish that they would use another name than ‘Earth Day’, because the benefit of what I’ve provided there and what we have done is that this is getting attention for an important event in nature that can tap all kind of possibilities from the equinox in ancient Persia to ancient China to the observance of it from the Mir Space Station, (which will be happening this year for the first time). It’s a special event and that event could be a wonderful, unifying force if people would give it one name. Regardless of why they’ve come up with a different ‘Earth Day’, the solution is attention for Earth Day on the March Equinox and its Earth Trustee agenda.
Progress Report – At EARTHSITE.ORG, you call upon concerned citizens to circumvent mass media in getting the word out about the movement for economic and ecological justice by using the internet as well as other means, but how will such gargantuan and entrenched forces be extricated? Describe the transition from our current state of affairs to one in which a few will not have their current power over the many; how will it happen?
JOHN McCONNELL – There needs to be a common effort to praise and support small Earth Trustee efforts – which are always better than big ones. Small is beautiful.
Progress Report – In your writings and speeches, you demonstrate an excellent ability to elucidate the Earth Trustee mentality and agenda; now, explain the opposition. Who are they? Why would they want to thwart a just and efficient reform? Can we blame it all on a lack of understanding? Is there genuine malevolence in the world that truly desires the suffering of others? Psycho-analyze your opponent in this battle so Earth Trustees can have a better perspective of the task at hand.
JOHN McCONNELL – They are mostly people who see a part of the problem – not the whole picture.
Progress Report – You’ve been an activist since your youth and you’ve been around the world promoting the great cause; many important events in your life are mentioned at your website, but describe your feelings about them. What is it like to participate so closely in such meaningful events?
JOHN McCONNELL – OK, well, there are several elements there. For one, you have both a possibility and a problem in crowd psychology. People think they’re going to do great things by having a million man march in Washington or whatever and sometimes these mass efforts do. I guess that in today’s world, the main thing they’re after is to break through the communications barrier and get attention and media. You feel that if you have wide coverage of television and press, it’s a great success. On the other hand, sometimes, they’ve had great events here in New York that weren’t even mentioned in The New York Times and, of course, in the minds of people, they never happened!
The thing that I feel is that it’s whether people have a heartfelt commitment. A wonderful book that has influenced me a great deal is Small is Beautiful and I feel that the heartfelt, through a little effort that involves a few people and does a specific thing, that that benefits most and then you avoid some of the difficulties that occur when you get a big structure. If you get an institutional structure, why, what happens is decided at the top too often. Sometimes the democratic process has information flowing from the bottom up to the top and from the top down.
What would please me most would be to see one small town, not a big town, one small town, go all out, adopt the Earth Magna Charta and involve every institution in the community. That would mean the government of the city or the town, that would mean the churches, the schools, the library, the service clubs, the businesses; everybody would get involved and their goal would be to contribute in their way to the Earth Trustee agenda and goal and that, again, is to diminish pollution and poverty and violence and to increase the care of our planet and awareness of nature and do it in a way that is just and fair and that brings benefit to everybody who makes an effort.
Of course going back to the history of how Earth Day has been celebrated there are many wonderful examples. On the first Earth Day, at The University of California at Davis, that was to me one of the most exciting celebrations. They had a twelve hour vigil of creation with participation from different religious groups; they celebrated particularly at the moment of equinox, but they had the whole campus with exhibits and examples of composting and help in planting trees and recycling, clean energy, etc. Then the following year, the New York Board of Education had a 3 month countdown to Earth Day with all kinds of preparation so that on Earth Day in the schools they both had music and celebration and dancing and they had exhibits. One gymnasium I was invited to visit was filled with wonderful examples of alternatives. At one school, I’ll never forget this, they decided to do an environmental impact study of their school and its grounds so that they could start thinking of what would save electricity and what would cut down on pollution and how they could do things more effectively and efficiently for the job that they had.
Once a person starts in this direction, they will always find more and more that they can do and somewhere along the line you not only talk, you not only write about ideas but, you do something. I’ll stress this again. If we have a thousand websites talking about planting trees and nobody plants a tree, what good is it? So, we need the vision, we need the action, we need the words, but the main thing is we need to implement the values we’ve discovered and then, we need somebody to follow up with reports on what is working best. As we move in that direction, why, I think we could have a great future for our planet.
Progress Report – You are and will probably always be a hero to many people; who are your heroes and why? Name three of the historical figures you most admire.
Well, here again, we are all products of our culture, our genes and our experiences and I feel very strongly that when it comes to the ultimate mysteries of life, we are limited to hypotheses. They’re very meaningful, but… For example, when I talked with the Dalai Lama, I met with him at The Club of Budapest when I was inducted into The Club of Budapest a couple of years ago, and I so admired his efforts for freedom for his country and for the environment and for peace, but I added to this, “As I say this, I want you to know that I don’t agree with your creed. I happen to be an evangelical Christian,” and, of course, he’s a Buddhist, and I said, “When it comes to the ultimate questions life and the universe of the mind, all we have are hypotheses. I don’t have a videotape of what it’s like in Heaven and I don’t think you have an x-ray of a soul waiting for reincarnation,” and he laughed and agreed with me.
We get from our creed, motivation for our values. So, I’d like people who get a little sectarian about having the only way, I’d like them to prove the value of their creed by their deed. If you are demonstrating more love for your neighbor, compassion for the needy and taking care, as best you can, of part of the planet and promoting institutions of fairness and justice, why, that is a testimony to the value of your creed. I would argue that through history, the people who have actually followed the teachings of Jesus have made the greatest contributions to history, not the ones who have claimed His name, the worst wars in history have been fought in His name, but the ones who have acknowledged and practiced what He said and taught, they have benefited.
Progress Report – What’s The Club of Budapest?
JOHN McCONNELL – Some of your readers may have come across The Club of Rome, which was way back many years ago, an organization in London that brought top scientists from Europe together in concern about peace and the environment and that went on for a number of years and kind of disappeared. Then, their leader resurrected it as what he called The Club of Budapest and he and the Mayor of Budapest and others, they invited key world scientists to become members of it and they have meetings and so on.
Progress Report – Who are the special people in your life?
JOHN McCONNELL – My wife and children – and many wonderful friends.
Progress Report – Your father was a minister and you refer often to the teachings of Christ, but mainstream American Christianity seems to be waiting for His return. What do you think? Will it take a miracle for the good guys to win or is the continuation of human life on Earth guaranteed? Should we be worried or do we have it made?
JOHN McCONNELL – Neither. The future depends on what we do. Positive Earth Trustee attitudes and actions can now provide a great future.
Progress Report – Rate the progress of the movement. How are we doing? Are we on track or are we falling short? Will we succeed at the rate we’re going or must we do better?
JOHN McCONNELL – The situation is ambiguous…great problems and great opportunities.
Progress Report – Most people, it seems, would like to help change the world, but are too busy trying to keep up with their daily lives. What do you suggest for them?
JOHN McCONNELL – It is the daily choices that count. Begin every day thinking about this and what you will do.
Progress Report – How would you feel about the formation of an Earth Trustee or Georgist political party? Is it a good idea? Would you get involved with it?
JOHN McCONNELL – The best way is a dramatic change in existing parties. Earth Trustee websites and e-mail can get to members of any party.
Progress Report – You’ll be observing Earth Day at the UN Building in New York; is the public invited or is there some other place people in the area will be able to come and hear you speak on Earth Day? How can people connect with you this Earth Day?
JOHN McCONNELL – …no suitable place for a big crowd. There are deep security concerns at The United Nations. There’ll be a reception across the street in the early evening, but one would need to call ahead. It may be too late now for people to get into that… There can be gatherings and events in different places… We’ll see what happens, but, we’re not talking about an event that happens in a certain place, we’re talking about a world-wide event. No matter where you are, you can connect in the most important way by celebrating on the proper day and at the proper moment, the equinox, which, this year, will be at 2:55 PM EST on Friday, March 20th. In this way, we can all be together as one no matter where on Earth we happen to be.
Progress Report – What are your plans for the rest of the year? What’s ahead for Trustee #1 and how can people help you?
JOHN McCONNELL – I have various speaking engagements and so forth. People can keep up with all of it by checking in periodically at my website, (WWW.EARTHSITE.ORG). One thing I’d like is for every website that’s trying to improve human conditions to have right up in the front that they are an Earth Trustee website. One of the websites has an image that you can borrow. The guy who’s been helping me with that is Don Rittner at WWW.THEMESH.COM
Progress Report – Do you have any other messages for people who might read this interview? Is there something else you would like to say?
JOHN McCONNELL – While the public cannot join in the simple ceremony at the United Nations (or on the Mir Space Station!), they can think about and talk about Earth Day and its Earth Trustee agenda on Earth Day. In every business, school and home, Earth Trustee talk and action can link our hearts and our minds in love for people and planet. I keep getting e-mail and questions on the phone, “What do I do to celebrate Earth Day?” It’s important to realize that there’s a thousand different ways you can do something appropriate and if you catch the vision and you’re moved spiritually in your heart with the idea of being an Earth Trustee and how you can be connected globally in your commitment to this purpose through observing Earth Day and the moment of equinox (and Earth Day on the equinox is what we keep stressing),…
Progress Report – So the important thing is for people to make it a personal event.
JOHN McCONNELL – Right.
Progress Report – Thank you very much for this interview, Mr. McConnell, and for everything you do.
JOHN McCONNELL – (chuckling) I’m delighted.
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