It's enough to make you stand up and sing The Star Spangled Banner, is what it is.
Progress! Slogans! Everything for sale!
It's all in the name of Earth Day '80, down here on the Mall: the $8,000 windmill; the $35,000 pot-still; the little red plastic solar-powered fire truck humming up and down the display table, priced at $11.44; and the composting toilets! There's the Dinky-Flush, the TOA-Throne (pictured by the ocean with lovely blonde) and the Minophor Low-Flush 210. . . .
It's a long way from the original Earth Day, in 1970, the carnival of commercial-free sanctimony that inspired a whole literature of bumper stickers: Save the Whales, I Brake for Small Animals, Turn Off a Light and Hear a River Breathe Its Thanks.
For one thing, we've come a long way -- you can walk over to the Potomac and swim in it today. And live. For another thing the Mall is swarming not with prophets but with entrepreneurs, pitchmen, inventors, little people with big visions, Mr. and Mrs. Front Porch U.S.A., just more good Americans like yourself.
"We all made whiskey where I come from," says Jim Floyd, the steel fabricator for the 2,600-gallon still he's standing on, watching that corn mash work inside the cooker. "There wasn't but a cotton mill to work in, a few sawmills in Turkey Heaven Mountain, Alabama.
"And now, here I am right under the Capitol turning out alcohol. 'Course, it wasn't the government put the moonshiners out of business anyway, it was sugar going from $9 a bag to, what is it nowadays, $35? We're making fuel, here, anyway.
"This thing here, this pot-still, poses a real threat to an oil company, you better hog-tail whistle on it. You get 100,000 farmers making $1.25-a-gallon alcohol, and you've got them frightened. And you've got independence from the Persian Gulf. You turn the American farmer loose. . . ."
There's a man in a cowboy hat standing behind his Jenkins SM Thermal Deflector (with American eagle decals) ready to look nice in your fireplace.
There's Debra Datzenko nailing together a solar-heated dog house. She is asked whatever happened to the dog-heated dog house. She says she doesn't know; but she's building this one because it was such a cute idea -- I don't even have a dog."
Solartherm Inc. of Silver Spring offers a sun-powered music box that plays everything from Tchaikovsky to "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head."
A sign reads: "Solar Hot Water -- Touch At Your Own Risk!" which is the ecological equivalent of Jo Jo the Dog Boy and other carnival freak-show terrors to be witnessed only by the strong. It's just warm enough for a shower.
Douglas A. Wilkie, engineer and architect, stands by his solar panels which are pumping 153-degree air into a 73-degree morning and he says Bethlehem Steel and Dupont "couldn't have been more helpful."
"The problem with businessmen is with selling. They say: "Give us a market of a million units a year and we'll take it on.' Well, if I had that, I wouldn't need them, would I?"
Admittedly, the free-sample pile isn't getting any smaller over at the compost heap sponsored by the Department of Agriculture, but then, human compost is an idea whose time hasn't quite come. Over at the two-story walk-through composting toilet built (with a $4,000 government grant) by the New Life Farm of Drury, Mo. Woot Sukontarak, who came here from Thailand 30 years ago, says: "I understand it, but still it's a very repulsive idea." In any case, the walk-through model is to go on permanent display at Glen Echo when Earth Day activities are over.
All-American! Whatever happened to the professional apocalypticians casting long and knowing glances over their shoulders at the cities, the corporations, the bureaucracy?
"There's nothing counter-cultural about this Earth Day," says Mike McCabe, who is coordinating the nation-wide "celebrations" from offices on R Street.
"We decided it was time to celebrate and say we've accomplished something. We've cleaned up our cars, we've come a long way. Let's for once look back at some of the achievements. I was tired of having demonstrations. We didn't want to march and leave the city with a bunch of trampled tulips."
He points to a letter on the wall. Aiena Lettice, a sixth-grader from Gloversville, N.Y., has written to ask: "Can you give me the date or year or some information when Earth Day first started?"
He's happy to claim that Earth Day is being celebrated in "more than 1,000 communities" turning off stereos, TV's popcorn poppers and so on at Stetson University in Deland, Fla.; the "Feria Cicloterra," or earth-orbit fair in Barrio Jiminez, Puerto Rico; a demonstration for peace, health and safety at the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant in Colorado; the first National Recycling Congress in Fresno, Calif.
It's costing $150,000 to coordinate it, funded largely by the sale of Earth Day 80 T-shirts, McCabe says. Participants are operating on funds ranging from corporation bank accounts to grants from the departments of Energy, Agriculture and Interior. Who could be against Earth Day? (The FBI kept it under surveillance in 1970, and the Daughters of the American Revolution said it was "subversive.")
No one is handing out leaflets bearing clenched fists. No kid with a guitar is begging for stage time with Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden. Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden won't be here. McCabe has just sent four volunteers down to the Mall "to find something to do. We had everything under control, here."
But of course. McCabe, himself, is 29, but he was Sen. Gary Hart's (D-Colo.) legislative assistant at 22, a professional appointive politician in cardigan and necktie.
It's all good news. The worst you can say about Earth Day '80 is that it is to spring festivals what UNICEF boxes are to Halloween.
Besides, the point down here on the Mall just east of the Air and Space Museum isn't to do good, it's just (oh voice from the American past) the cry of Can Do! The Impossible Takes A Little Longer! (And get the right tools for the job.)
Listen to these lunch-time bureaucrats standing around the $8,000 Cycloturbine windmill, hashing it out.
"You can optimize for a standard windspeed range . . ."
"But if you want to downscale for retrofitting . . ."
"Overall system integration . . ."
It's the kind of language the boys can hunker down with on Saturday mornings outside the hardware store talking that talk just to feel it roll off their tongues!
Down at the other end of the exhibits, by the alcohol-powered lawnmowers, John Hoke is standing up with his big cigar and telling people about it, yessir, he's got flame-focus that "takes advantage of your delta-T, you understand, with the corresponding increase in thermoefficiency."
It's a heating device he's talking about, and the best part is how he thought of it, the legend, the ur-myth, the one that every inventor treasures against the day when the world sees it his way.
"It all started when I set a wheat-field on fire. I was down in Manassas on a routine pollution check," says Hoke, who works for the Parks Department. "I parked my car in the field and left it running. I hadn't walked 500 feet before that field was on fire. I ran back, stomped it out and moved the car. The field caught again. I got down and looked under that car and it was this that was doing it. You know what this is?It's the catalytic converter in your car, and I figured, if it could get that hot . . ."
He could use it to heat water, houses . . . "Those guys with the still over there, they've been talking to me, you bet." And he goes on about BTU efficiency drive coupling dynamic payback . . . and he might as well be Prof. Harold Hill, right here in River City, the Music Man talking the rest of us into joining the band.
The following events are scheduled for Earth Day '80 (for further information call 293-2550): Sunrise Celebration (6:30 a.m.), Jefferson Memorial. Bicycling on Beach Drive (7 a.m.-6 p.m.). Beach Drive is closed from Joyce to Broad Branch roads. Bike-in (8:30 a.m.), Lafayette Park. Breakfast and music for cyclists. National Urban Environmental Teach-In (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.), International Inn, 10 Thomas Circle, NW. Fee: 12. Lightship Chesapeake Environmental Education Center (10 a.m.-4 p.m., open house; 5-7 p.m., Congressional rally), Washington Channel at Haines Point. Defenders of Wildlife Open House, 1244 19th St., N.W. Endangered Species Dance (1 p.m.), St. John's Church, Lafayette Square, NW. Rock Creek Nature Center (4-5 p.m.), 5000 Glover Park Rd., N.W. Film, slides and demonstrations. Earth Day Birthday Celebration (11:30 a.m. 13 p.m.), Mall Stage between 3rd & 4th, Independence Ave. & Madison Dr. NW. Fairlington Village Recycling Program (8 p.m.), Community Center, 3308 S. Stafford, Arlington. Slide presentation and speakers. Environmental Film Festivals are being held in these locations: U.S. Department of Agriculture (9 a.m.-5 p.m.), Jefferson Auditorium, USDA South Building. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (11 a.m.-3 p.m.), HUD's Department Conference Room, 1233. General Services Administration (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.), GSA Auditorium, 18th & F sts., NW. National Oceanographic and Air Administration (10 a.m.-4 p.m.), in the Capitol, Room EF-100. Events scheduled for more than one day include: Earth Day '80 Exhibits (10 a.m.-6 p.m.), National Mall 3rd & 4th at Independence Ave. & Jefferson Dr. N.W. (exhibits end today). Bicycle Commuter Seminars (noon-1 p.m.). For information and locations, call: 727-5906 (through April 25). Share-A-Ride Project Office, Open House (10 a.m.-4 p.m.). Maryland National Park & Planning Commission, 1201 Spring St., Silver Spring (through April 25). Earth Week Celebration at University of Maryland. Films, panel discussions, concert and picnic, and three-day outdoor fair. Call for information: 454-5601 (through April 28). CAPTION: Picture 1, Granville Maitland's still; Picture 2, the composting toilet; Picture 3, the $8,000 windmill; Picture 4, and Mike McCabe. Photos by James A. Parcell, Margaret Thomas, Lucian Perkins, Fred Sweets.