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Gregoire's Earth Day Message To College Kids: Puget Sound Health Depends On You

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
A southern resident J pod orca whale swims in Puget Sound in view of Mount Rainier and downtown Seattle, as seen from a federally permitted research vessel Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014.

Forty four years ago, the modern environmental movement was born with the celebration of the first Earth Day. At massive teach-ins around the country, people called on industries to stop polluting.

Now the messages have become more personal, says former Gov. Chris Gregoire, who isspeaking at Pacific Lutheran University Tuesday night.

When talking about environmentalism these days,Gregoire says she’s taken to quoting the famous line from the comic character Pogo: "'We have seen the enemy, and it is us.'"

“That's us," Gregoire quipped. "We are contributing to the problem, and it’s time we took up and got ready, and became part of the solution.”

Gone are the days when we could point to a belching smoke stack or burning river as the main problem; now it’s about all the tiny personal choices we can make, like reducing toxins in storm water runoff by riding the bus or using a commercial car wash.

Gregoire says this especially applies to the region’s iconic waterway, Puget Sound. During her two terms as Washington governor, Gregoire created a new agency to lead its cleanup. But she says its success hinges equally on the collective actions of individuals.

“In the next decade or so, we’re going to add several million people — probably the size of Portland. And as we do so, that continues to put pressure on Puget Sound and its viability," Gregoire said. "So, while we have made good progress and we should be proud, we haven’t made the progress we have to make and we have got to continue working together to make it happen.”

The original Earth Day led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency as well as widespread enforcement of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. But Gregoire says those laws alone won’t achieve the goal of a Puget Sound that is "fishable, diggable and swimmable” by 2020.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to