Earth Day! Celebrating Mother EarthFeb 26, 2019 10:42AM ● By Anne Batty
by Anne Batty
Most public events commemorated and celebrated annually in the USA have been established to honor persons; those who individually have made great contributions to society. But there are others like Earth Day, celebrated annually on April 22, that are established to commemorate movements bringing awareness to issues that might be causing unwarranted harm to the population.
Setting the Scene for a Movement
In 1957, a marine biologist and nature writer, Rachel Carson, received a letter from a friend in Duxbury, Massachusetts about the loss of bird life after pesticide spraying. That letter inspired her to write the book Silent Spring, outlining the dangers of chemical pesticides. Her book awakened society to the dangers of chemicals in the environment, and a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides sparked a movement that ultimately led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Fast-forward to 1970 …
As the war continued in Vietnam, and students nationwide were overwhelmingly opposing it, Americans were pumping leaded gas into their vehicles, unaware and unconcerned with its effect upon the atmosphere; while modern industry was belching out smoke and sludge with little knowledge of, or concern for, the consequences. Air pollution was a commonly accepted phrase, and “environment” was a word that seldom appeared in the evening news.
The scene was set … an agency against pesticides had been formed, an emerging consciousness was brewing, and channeled by the energy of the anti-war protest demonstrations, on April 22, 1970 the Earth Day movement gave birth.
A Senator Steps In
Disturbed by the oil spill in Santa Barbara in 1969, and the knowledge that an issue as important as the environment was going unnoticed in politics and the media; Senator Gaylord Nelson (also former Governor) of Wisconsin proposed a national environmental teach-in to educate Washington and to inform them that public opinion was solidly behind a political agenda on environmental problems.
Inspired by the campus activism of the late 1960s, Nelson employed environmental activist, Dennis Hayes; and along with a team of energized and concerned students, the group responded to the overwhelming public excitement building for a national day commemorating the saving of the environment.
Upon insisting that the first Earth Day’s activities be created by individuals and groups in their own communities, it is recorded that 1 in 10 Americans participated in that first Earth Day celebration. As a result a rare political alignment was achieved, and Earth Day 1970 began gaining support, not only from Republicans/Democrats, but from people in all walks of life; rich/poor, city dwellers/farmers, tycoons and labor leaders, and more. And by the end of the year, that first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.
A Giant Step Further
After gaining support and recognition in the USA, in 1990 Earth Day went global when Denis Hays was recruited once again by Washington to organize another big campaign. Mobilizing approximately 141 countries, demonstrators put environmental issues on the world stage, and Earth Day 1990 gave recycling efforts a huge worldwide boost. Those efforts paved the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, an event that is now celebrated globally every year.
Although Gallup polls purport that 42% of Americans believe that the dangers of climate change are exaggerated, and less than half say that, “protection of the environment should be given priority over energy production;” Susan Clayton, Professor of psychology and environmental studies at The College of Wooster in Ohio, disagrees. She believes that
Earth Day is an important event because it reminds people to think about humanity’s values, the threats the planet faces and the ways we can all help protect the environment.
“Thinking about the history of environmental activism and the way individuals have worked together to change policy can make us more optimistic about the ability to make positive changes in the future,” Clayton remarked.
Ways to Celebrate
In spite of its rich history, most people think the way to celebrate Earth Day is simply by recycling. While this is certainly a major part of supporting the movement, there are many other ways to participate.
As a day set aside for political action and civic participation, Earth Day proponents suggest it is important to sign environmental petitions circulated in communities, to write to constituents in support of environmental issues, and/or to meet with elected officials to discuss environmental concerns.
Other suggestions include: planting trees and flowers indigenous to the area, cleaning up roadsides/beaches/public places, starting community gardens, keeping water usage minimal, and paying attention to runoffs into the oceans, rivers and streams. Taking a walk in nature, picking up a discarded bottle and recycling (even if it isn’t yours), and conserving energy in the small things like setting thermostat at 69 degrees and turning off lights when not in use.
What Does the Future Hold?
Earth Day 2019 is focusing on the protection of threatened and endangered species; the premise being that all plants and animals are linked together as part of life on earth, and without them human species might not survive. Utilizing education and public awareness as tools to inspire policy victories for saving iconic species, the movement hopes to influence individual action and effect behavioral changes.
Earth Day 2020 will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the movement. On its agenda are: “Earth Challenge 2020,” collecting one billion data points to measure air quality, water quality, pollution and human health, amplifying direct links between technological innovation and inclusive climate prosperity; engaging volunteers across the globe for a month-long, worldwide, volunteer-driven program; and working with teachers, students, innovators and thought leaders to educate and activate a new generation of environmental leaders around the world.
With a history of almost 50 years working for the preservation of planet earth, it seems that the Earth Day movement plans to carry on. Having ushered in a new era of cultural awareness about the environment, its future is looking brighter, while its influence seems to be broadening and becoming more effective than ever.
Visit www.earthday.org for more information or to join the movement.
SAN CLEMENTE’S EARTH DAY CELEBRATION
Each year the City of San Clemente, Environmental Division, Watershed Task Force, California State Parks, local businesses and members of the community, come together to celebrate Earth Day in South Orange County.
The Earth Day 2018 celebration included a gathering on April 21st at San Clemente’s Parque Del Mar. Beginning with an early-risers beach clean-up complete with coffee and food generously provided and served by local merchants, this event offered activities that provided educational information about making a difference in reducing litter and pollutants in streets, storm drains, on beaches and in the oceans. Live music, kid’s arts and crafts, educational displays, demonstrations, and awards for efforts supporting the environment; all added emphasis to the importance of the occasion. Simultaneously, clean-up events were also offered at surrounding beaches, as well as opportunities for cleaning up and restoring the nature trail, and restoring native plants at the Historic Cottage at San Clemente State Beach.
Earth Day 2019, coming up April 22nd promises more of the same. Plan now to join the celebration by attending a local event or lending volunteering services to commemorate this important event.
To learn more or to volunteer,
contact the California State Parks at [email protected],
City of San Clemente Environmental Division at
environmental-services and Watershed Task Force http://www.scwatersheds.com/events.htm