Days of Planet Past
Up until the 1970s there was no EPA, no Clean Water Act nor a Clean Air Act. It was perfectly legal to unendingly spew toxic smoke into the air and dump pernicious waste into rivers and streams. But the tides were turning, a movement was growing that would force environmental issues into the forefront and advance the agenda publicly and politically, and Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin was leading the vanguard.
Senator Nelson had earned a reputation for being green (long before it was trendy lingo) while still the Governor of Wisconsin, by pushing reforms to clean up waterways and protect natural resources. Elected to the senate in 1962, Nelson spent 7 years unsuccessfully trying to convince his fellow politicians of the immediacy of environmental concerns. While his pleas fell on deaf ears in Washington, citizens were becoming increasingly engaged in cleaning up the air and water. When the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, OH literally caught fire due to pollution in 1969, seemingly so did the environmental movement.
In September of 1969, Nelson proposed a national “teach-in” regarding the environment, which he hoped would send a clear message to Washington, a message stating the public opinion was staunchly behind political action to address environmental concerns. Student groups assisted in organizing and coordinating the teach-in, which the senator insisted be a grassroots effort effected by individuals and groups in their own communities. What resulted was 1 in 10 Americans participating in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, which gained tremendous media coverage and bolstered an era of bold environmental legislation.
Today, Earth Day is celebrated by over a billion people across 192 countries. The focus is still on education, many events will feature educational presentations covering current issues such as; pollution, climate change, endangered species, biodiversity, ocean acidification, colony collapse, overfishing, coral bleaching, recycling etc.. However, the push for environmental action has increased tremendously. Actions taken come in many forms; letter writing campaigns to elected officials, organizing or participating in a demonstration, planting trees, community clean up and much more.
This year’s Earth Day theme is “Green Cities”. With populations, especially in cities, on the rise and the effects of climate change worsening, cities must evolve in order to continue to support this growth without continuing to heavily impact the environment. The Green Cities campaign, over the next two years, aims to mobilize a global movement to transition cities into to investing in and implementing renewable energy use as well as finding and and executing sustainable, resilient solutions for climate change adaptations. To learn more about what constitutes a Green City visit: http://www.earthday.org/greencities/learn/ and to find out what you can do to help, check out: http://www.earthday.org/greencities/action/
Because Earth Day falls mid-week this year, many events will take place the following weekend (4/26-4/27). Stay tuned for more information on events near you and places to meet our arborists and see how they celebrate our planet.