Biohabitats’ Leaf Litter
Vol. 3 Number 2
Thoughts on Earth Day
Thirty-five years ago, Senator Gaylord Nelson conceived of the first Earth Day as a massive “teach-in” event to mobilize kids across the country to get involved with the environment. An astounding 20 million people participated in earth awareness activities on April 22, 1970. Today, Earth Day is observed by more than half a billion people around the world who want to promote a cleaner, healthier world for themselves and especially future generations. In the United States alone, this year there were nearly 12,000 grassroots events involving millions of people, feature articles, and tens of thousands of classrooms learning about environmental and health issues.
While these numbers are quite encouraging, there is still much to be done. The April/May issue of Mother Earth News, features an article by Denis Hayes, the national coordinator for that first Earth Day, which gives an overview of the history of Earth Day and issues a plea for readers “to unite in defense of our planet”.
Denis describes how Earth Day, based in the science of ecology, was able to cross party lines and unite people across the country for a common purpose. He explains how two powerful but separate movements – the conservation movement, rooted mainly in hunting and fishing – and the environmental health movement, which concerned itself with the poisoning and pollution of the Earth by manmade chemicals – joined forces with a unified message that while America may have been growing wealthier, Americans were not necessarily better off as a result of this wealth.
The effects of that first Earth Day and successive Earth Days for years to come had a profound impact on political policy resulting in the formation of the world’s first Environmental Protections Agency (EPA), the creation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the enactment of numerous laws to stop industry from further polluting the Earth. Over the next two decades, environmental awareness and action became part of the fabric of the American culture.
But all is not right with the world. Denis points out that sadly, in the last 10-15 years, much of the earth movement momentum has been lost to the fragmentation of various environmental coalitions and a growing disillusionment with regulatory agencies and their true effectiveness. In the political arena, the environment has taken a backseat to America’s growing concern for health care and homeland security issues. It is for these reasons that Denis issues a call for us to unite, once again, in defense of our planet. While many of you may have rolled up your sleeves to participate in an Earth Day activity in your community, please don’t let it stop there. There are endless opportunities year-round for each of us to improve the health of our Earth. Whether you actively volunteer to work with your local watershed association or educate yourself on important environmental issues by reading scientific journals, let’s work to keep the environment at the top of the list of critical issues affecting our world. Let’s make every day Earth Day.
– Keith Bowers, Principal
Further ReadingEcosystem Prosthetics: A Pier Review
E+D Podcast with Keith Bowers: The state of ecology and design in landscape architecture
Living Infrastructure: Green is great, but alive is even better
Water, Equity, and Ecology in Urban Planning
More From This AuthorMaking Connections to Save the Grizzly Bear
Banding Together for Bird Conservation
Thoughts on Stakeholder Engagement
Thoughts on Continental Connectivity
Thoughts on Giving Children the Gift of Nature