Affiliated with numerous environmentalist organizations
Strong supporter of John Kerry for U.S. President in 2004
Denis Hayes is an environmental activist who coordinated the first Earth Day festival in 1970.
Hayes was born in Wisconsin in 1944 and was raised in Camas, Washington. At the age of eighteen, he enrolled at Clark College but dropped out after his sophomore year. He spent the next three years hitch-hiking around Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. He then returned to the U.S. and attended Stanford University, where he was elected student body president and became an anti-Vietnam War activist. On one occasion, Hayes helped lead more than 1,000 students in a campus takeover of a weapons-research laboratory.
After graduating from Stanford in 1969, Hayes attended the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He left school, however, when he was recruited by Senator Gaylord Nelson (D - Wisconsin) to help organize the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Since then, Hayes has maintained a continuing role in the event’s annual orchestration. He also chairs the Board of the international Earth Day Network.
In 1979 Hayes was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct the Solar Energy Research Institute in Colorado, a U.S. Department of Energy initiative that focused primarily on renewable-energy research and development.
Hayes returned to school and in 1985 obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Stanford University. He then spent six years as an environmental lawyer in Silicon Valley, and later became an adjunct professor of engineering at Stanford.
During his career as an activist, Hayes has been a high-ranking official in such organizations as the environmental group Green Seal, the Nuclear Control Institute, the Energy Foundation, Greenpeace USA, the World Resources Institute, the American Solar Energy Society, the Federation of American Scientists, the League of Conservation Voters, the Humane Society of the United States, the National Programming Council for Public Television, CERES, and Children Now. He also has served as Director of the Illinois State Energy Office, a visiting scholar to the Smithsonian Institution, and a senior fellow at the environmental watchdog group the Worldwatch Institute.
In 1992 Hayes was named President of the Bullitt Foundation, which directs its philanthropy almost exclusively to radical environmental organizations whose ultimate goal, as writer Michael Berliner explains, is “not clean air and clean water, [but] rather . . . the demolition of technological/industrial civilization.” Hayes remains the Bullit Foundation's President and CEO to this day.
Hayes views capitalism as the arch-enemy of the natural world. At the Bell 2002 Conference Plenary, he said, “Under communism, prices were not allowed to reflect economic reality. Under capitalism, prices don't reflect ecological reality. In the long run, the capitalist flaw -- if uncorrected -- may prove to be the more catastrophic.”
Hayes strongly supported his longtime friend (of 35 years) John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race. "[T]he future of America," said Hayes at the time, "very much depends upon defeating George W. Bush and electing someone with the capacity for greatness." In Hayes' estimation, Kerry, if elected President, would have been able to help America "lead the world into a super-efficient, renewable-energy era, ending the oil stranglehold and putting the brake on climate change"; "lead a successful effort to guarantee a healthy environment as a fundamental right for everyone"; and "mount a strong campaign to stop the global epidemic of extinction -- the most tragic collapse of biodiversity since the last time an asteroid hit the planet."
Hayes further opined that Kerry undoubtedly would appoint judges and Supreme Court Justices who would do a better job (than Bush's nominees) of "preserv[ing] the Bill of Rights, respect[ing] the traditional separation of powers, and honor[ing] res judicata" (a reference to legal cases which have been settled and are no longer subject to appeal).
Hayes donated money to Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. Between 1992 and 2006, he also made contributions to numerous congressional candidates, all of them Democrats.
In 2002 Hayes joined a number of fellow prominent environmentalists -- including Carl Pope, Fred Krupp, Mark Van Putten, Kathleen Rogers, Randall Hayes, and Brent Blackwelder -- in signing a letter urging President Bush to attend the September 2002 Johannesburg, South Africa Earth Summit. The letter asked Bush to support a number of initiatives, including: “reduc[ing] United States emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants,” and “increas[ing] U.S. assistance to developing countries to protect their environments and the global environment.” Moreover, the letter blamed globalization and capitalism for environmental degradation and social strife around the world, stating:
“While actions to reduce barriers to trade and investments have stimulated economic growth, there are deep concerns about the uneven distribution of these economic gains among and within countries, the growing pressure on natural resources, and increasing pollution. The failure to address these tensions provides the impetus for unrest, social conflict and violence.”
Hayes is the author of a number of books and pamphlets on environmentalism, including: Rays of Hope: The Transition to a Post-Petroleum World (1977); The Solar Energy Timetable (1978); Pollution: The Neglected Dimensions (1979); and The Official Earth Day Guide to Planet Repair (2000).
In Hayes' calculus, human population growth poses the greatest environmental threat to the planet. "With humans accounting, directly and indirectly, for 40 percent of the earth's net biological productivity," he writes, "we are squeezing other species into extinction at a catastrophic rate. But because the population issue is inextricably linked to such political third rails as immigration, abortion, racism, religious objections to contraception, and Social Security, our politicians resolutely ignore it."
Hayes has received awards for his environmental activism from such organizations as the Sierra Club, the Humane Society, the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Council of America, the Global Environmental Facility of the World Bank, the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, and the American Solar Energy Society.
He also has received the Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Public Service; was named one of Time Magazine’s “Heroes of the Planet”; was listed in the National Audubon Society’s 100 Environmental Heroes of the 20th Century; and was named one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th Century by Look magazine.
Today Hayes lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife, Gail Boyer Hayes, and their daughter, Lisa A. Hayes, who works as an attorney.
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