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Every year on April 22, people around the world turn their attention to what keeps us all grounded…the Earth. Our planet is the one thing that every human being has in common, and in an effort to ensure that we keep our spacecraft in good repair, we celebrate Earth Day.
Earth Day is an environmental movement that began in 1970, over 50 years ago. At the time, Americans were experiencing a huge boom in industry, and with inefficient cars that ran on leaded gasoline and factories expelling vast amounts of smog and toxic runoff, the vast majority of the population remained unaware of the impact that “progress” had on the Earth, as well as the implications it had for the health of the public. Companies did not worry about the repercussions of lax waste disposal systems, and regulations to control pollution by big business were not as extensive as they are today.
However, not all Americans were oblivious to the problem. In 1962, an author named Rachel Carson published a New York Times bestseller titled Silent Spring, which raised public awareness and concern, not only for the environment, but also for organisms that depend on the environment. , including humanity. This post started turning the gears for environmental conservation in America.
In 1969, a massive oil spill occurred in Santa Barbara, California that wreaked havoc on local ecosystems. Senator Gaylord Nelson, who had been concerned for some time about the continuing deterioration of the environment in the United States, took action. Seeing the dynamism and energy that accompanied student anti-war protests, he sought to instill in these activists an awareness of pollution and conservation. He announced the idea of teaching on university campuses to the national media. Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican congressman, served as its co-chair. Denis Hayes, a young activist, was recruited to organize the seminars. April 22 was chosen because it fell between spring break and final exams, which would allow student populations to attend more freely.
The movement exploded with support, as more Americans became aware of the impact of irresponsible industrial development and the damage that was currently being done to the environment and sensitive ecosystems across the country. The effort has been accepted and promoted by a wide variety of organizations and religious groups. The day was dubbed Earth Day and inspired 20 million Americans (at the time, 10% of the US population) to take to the streets, parks and auditoriums to raise awareness and organize protests. Groups that previously worked as individuals against oil spills, polluting factories and power stations, sewage, toxic landfills, unregulated pesticides, wilderness loss and wildlife extinction have united on Earth Day around their common shared values.
The first Earth Day received support from Republicans and Democrats, citizens rich and poor, city dwellers and farmers, business and labor leaders, making it a rare politically aligned movement. In late 1970, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, paving the way for other environmentally friendly laws, such as the National Environmental Protection Act. environmental education, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and the Clean Air Act. Two years later, Congress would pass the Endangered Species Act and then the federal Insecticides, Fungicides, and Rodenticides Act. Together, these laws are responsible for protecting millions of American citizens from disease and death, and have protected hundreds of species from extinction.
In 1990, Earth Day went global, as environmental leaders forced Denis Hayes to organize a campaign again. This campaign mobilized 200 million people in more than 140 countries. Emphasis was placed on recycling efforts around the world. And Earth Day has become a global celebration.
Now that you have some history, here are some ways to celebrate Earth Day today:
Look for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle in your home or office. Empty water bottle? Consider filling it with filtered tap water, rather than throwing it away. Turn off the lights when you don’t need them and turn up your air conditioning a few degrees when you’re away from home. These habits will save you money in the long run and are better for the environment.
Give your car a break. Consider biking to the grocery store or walking to meet a friend. Not only will you save money on gas, but your body will thank you for the extra fresh air and movement.
Bring your own bags to the grocery store. Reduce plastic waste by using your own grocery bags; these plastic shopping bags go straight to the trash anyway.
Reduce your junk mail. Sign up for eStatements and online bill payment. This will reduce the amount of mail you receive in your mailbox, thereby reducing the amount of paper you throw away.
Recycle your used electronic devices. Broken computers, laptops, and phones can be recycled for free at many manufacturers, who can use them for their undamaged parts, reducing the amount of parts made as well as the amount of parts that end up in landfill.
To pick up. Remember to spend the afternoon outdoors! Enjoy a picnic or take a leisurely stroll around your neighborhood, local park or around town. While you’re there, pick up any trash you see and dispose of it properly. Not only will this improve the quality of your hometown, but you’ll feel good knowing you helped clean things up!
To be involved. There are a number of reputable organizations you can donate to or join that are dedicated to taking care of the planet. Visit www.networkforgood.org for a list of environmental organizations near you.
Earth Day is a great way to remind us to take good care of this planet we live on. We have no replacement. But if we really want to protect our home, we need to create good habits that last longer than a day and instill those habits and care in our children. May each generation do better than the previous one. May we, as a collective, learn from our mistakes as a species and move forward with intention. May Earth Day be everyday.