We only have one Earth, so the prevailing thought now is that we should take care of it. But forty-eight years ago, not everyone felt that way. Inspired by the student demonstrations against the Vietnam War, Senator Nelson Gaylord believed that if he could find a way to make the public aware of air and water pollution that something could be done about it. He recruited Congressmen Pete McCloskey to be his co-chair and Denis Hayes to act as national coordinator. And so, on April 22, 1970, some 20 million people from all around the United States took the streets, parks, and other communal areas, coast to coast, to demonstrate for the environment.
From that moment, Earth Day achieved importance as both a political and civil movement. Now, we have scientific data detailing the environmental damage humans have done and predictions of what could happen if humans continue doing the things that negatively affect the environment.
Today, Earth Day is a global event, celebrated every year in 192 countries with supporters from civilians and musicians to policymakers and big companies. They realize that it is important that everyone is involved in this movement and that humans should be taking care of the environment daily. Earth Day is both the chance to frame what has been done through the year to rehabilitate the environment and well as what still needs to be done.
As civilians, it is our duty to ask policymakers to continue passing bills that facilitate the protection of the environment in a timely manner. Further, as consumers, we should support the companies that are doing their best to cause minimal impact on the environment and honestly participate in “green” and sustainable measures toward the environment. Additionally, we have to make choices every day about purchasing items that are going to last longer and learning to reuse items so that we cut down on our own personal ecological footprint.
Much of the damage to the Earth cannot be undone, such as species, both animal and plant, that are extinct and climate change; however, perhaps the outlook is not so dismal. Through environmental protections made possible by legislation, there are endangered species and protected ecological zones, as well as a movement toward fighting climate change, which resulted in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
But not everything that can be done to help the Earth has to be done on a legislative or political scale. We can make little changes in our daily habits, such as bringing a reusable bag for shopping; not using straws, which are made of plastic; and recycling as much of what we label “trash” as possible. All those habits can change our culture and the way we do things; they also can be taught to the younger generations, so that they know only to reuse and recycle.
Earth Day’s fiftieth anniversary is in 2020, and between now and then, the Earth Day Network has launched several campaigns to promote global cooperation, including Trees for Earth (2016), Environmental and Climate Literacy (2017), and Bags, Bottles, and Straws: Building a Single-Use Plastics-Free World (2018).
To find out more about Earth day and its activities, visit their site at www.earthday.org.
Claudia Gravier Frigo contributed to this blog.