As the head of Earth Day Network, Kathleen Rogers is leading the charge to save our environment.Since the first Earth Day in 1970, the modern environmental movement has become one relentless green machine. And though we’re reminded of the importance of this global initiative every April 22, saving our environment is a 365-day-a-year job — and one that Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network, is committed to. American Way checked in with Rogers to assess the progress of her organization and others like it as its annual showcase event nears.
American Way: What are your duties as president of Earth Day Network?
Kathleen Rogers: My duties range from administrative work and fundraising to strategic planning. I do a lot of public speaking, a lot of writing. I publish op-eds in different journals. And I focus now on writing about the green economy — how to build it and the women’s subset of that.
AW: Can you tell us a little about the origins of Earth Day?
KR: In 1969, Gaylord Nelson, a senator from Wisconsin who had become increasingly concerned about the state of the environment in the United States, was noticing the impact of students organizing against the Vietnam War. He recognized what appeared to be an affinity for environmental issues among young people and wanted to create an “environmental teach-in.” He hired Denis Hayes, who converted it from a teach-in to Earth Day.
AW: What types of events are scheduled for this April 22?
KR: Just about every city has a major event on Earth Day. We’re doing events in New York’s Times Square and Grand Central Terminal. Cincinnati does a big event at the zoo; Cleveland does a big event at their zoo. Tens of thousands of cleanups worldwide. Tree planting in Mozambique. We have events so numerous, it’s almost impossible to mention them all.
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KR: We have a staff of about 30 people in Washington, D.C., and other locations. We’re the principal organizing body of 22,000 groups that are in our network. We’re a year-round organization, and we’re a major player in anything involving education, the environment and the green economy.
AW: What are the network’s goals for the future?
KR: To continue to broaden the environmental community and make it accessible to everybody. To get people to participate in the design of cities and in their communities’ future. In terms of urban planning, it’s been kind of a mess. We have an enormous opportunity to design livable communities.
AW: What is your proudest achievement as president of Earth Day Network?
KR: In the most global sense, growing the movement. Being in the environmental movement, even though we’re constantly being outspent and outgunned, is a relentlessly optimistic job. To plant those seeds of optimism is my biggest joy.