In 1970, Americans celebrated the first Earth Day. The day was dominated by thousands of grassroots teach-ins at high schools, colleges and other spaces across the country. The original goal of Earth Day, as dictated by Gaylord Nelson (the Democratic senator from Wisconsin who initiated it) was to spur the nation’s young people to put their passion and organizing efforts behind creating a sustainable future. In other words, to revolutionize the way we think about our relationship with the earth, and inspire the country’s desire to protect it.
Thanks to that first Earth Day and the increased environmental awareness that accompanied it, many important and positive laws followed – like the creation of the Clean Water Act, and the expansion of the Clean Air Act. But the path towards environmental responsibility has not been completely straight.
This year on April 22, we will celebrate the 43rd anniversary of that first Earth Day. It’s a milestone, but it also begs the question: why are we still observing Earth Day? And are we any better off for it? Last week’s New Yorker included an interesting article about the growth of the environmental movement – and specifically how it’s ironically become less effective as it’s grown “bigger, richer, and better connected than it was in 1970.”
It raises an important point. There are a ton of environmental organizations out there doing great work. And there are many people working on both individual and collective levels to curb climate change, keep pollutants out of the water and sky, and find ways to live happily while consuming fewer resources. But as a whole, it is fair to say that there is still a long ways to go – even 43 years on.
So let’s put the Earth back into Earth Day this year and make a commitment to make a real difference. Maybe that means taking action – like calling your senator or other representative to voice your support. Maybe it means joining the efforts of an organization like 350.org, the Sierra Club, or the Rainforest Action Network. Whatever it is, let this year’s Earth Day make a difference so that, 43 years from now, we will be able to celebrate a cleaner and healthier planet.
How are you putting the Earth back in Earth Day? Let us know by tweeting @repairtheworld #earthday.