Apr 212010
Authors: Sara Michael

Fort Collins Mayor Pro-Tem Kelly Ohlson was one face in a sea of activists across the country who showed up to rally against pollution –– instead of the clichéd war protest of the time –– as part of first Earth Day celebration in the United States in 1970.

As a college sophomore at Iowa State University, he remembers population being one of the major issues among the many of that revolutionary day.

Even then, he said, they saw the numbers rising. From 1900 to 1970, the world’s population increased from 1.6 to 3.7 billion people. And in just 20 years, the average age of a college student, the earth’s population has grown by 1.5 billion. From the beginning of time to 1900, the entire world’s population was approximately 1.5 billion.

Ohlson said that on this Earth Day 40 years later many have neglected the roots of the environmental movement.

Today, the Lory Student Center will host a sustainability fair where more than 100 environmentally-minded organizations will take presence to push their message.

“People connected the dots better 40 years ago then they appear to today,” Ohlson said, crediting that mindset to the book “The Population Bomb,” written by Paul R. Ehrlich in 1968. The book details the starvation that an overpopulated world would cause and got many people thinking numbers in terms for the future. The first step to change, Ohlson said, is to get people talking.

“It isn’t going to pretty when the world population goes from 7 billion to 12 in just a few years,” he said. “Then it won’t be ideology or religion we’ll be fighting over. It’ll be resources.”

For many people, though, Ohlson added, it is easier to talk about micro issues than macro issues. “We’re rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, not dealing with the big issue. Both personally and policy wise, people don’t tackle the big things.”

Today, said Maria Myotte, staff director of Clean Water Action Colorado, legislation has crippled the measure, which now protects only navigable waterways, leaving 90 percent of Colorado’s waters unprotected.

“For us, Earth day is everyday,” Myotte said. “There are a ton of things going on, they’re just not nearly as visible as they used to be. We’ve come a long way with legislature.”
But in the end, Ohlson said, it’s a question of when.

“The sooner people start making wise choices, the less drastic choices people will have to make,” he said.

Staff writer Sara Michael can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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