The Who, What & Why of EARTH DAY

By Jeanne Romano

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss (The Lorax)

The first Earth Day, April 22, 1970 was wildly successful. For the first time, a diverse group of modern environmentalists gathered together: youthful idealists, liberal Democrats, middle-class women, scientists, professionals, and representatives of conservation groups, labor unions and churches.

Over 40 years of protecting health and the environment. A proud anniversary. However, with longevity unfortunately often comes complacency. Earth Day, every April 22, yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay so on that one day we all make sure not to litter, turn off the TV when we leave the room and, of course, we absolutely, positively remember to recycle.

Activists John McConnell and U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (Al Gore was just a smidge over 20 at the time) have been credited with creating Earth Day. McConnell brought the idea of a global holiday to the United Nations in 1969. Environmental activist Senator Nelson is responsible for inspiring celebrations at thousands of colleges, universities, schools and communities all across the United States as well as the widespread grassroots legislation. Ultimately Nelson woke up Washington and forced the issue onto the national agenda.

Regardless who “invented” Earth Day we the American people finally had a public forum in which to voice our concerns over what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air – and we did so with spectacular exuberance. Our unwavering demand for cleaner water, air and land, led Richard Nixon (one of our more infamous presidents) and Congress to sign into law The Clean Air (and Water) Act which ultimately led to establishment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Before 1970, a factory could spew black clouds of toxic into the air or dump tons of toxic waste into a nearby stream and it was perfectly legal. The newly formed EPA was tasked with the challenging goal of repairing the damage already done to the environment and to establish guidelines to help Americans make a cleaner and safer environment a reality.

Through our daily decisions and lifestyle choices to make our homes and communities more environmentally friendly, every person on Earth can do plenty to preserve our planet’s finite natural resources today and for future generations. Here are a few ways to renew our commitment or to start in the way you live your life.

Barring any colonization of the moon, which I doubt will happen before this blog is posted, Mother Earth is still the one and only common denominator in the life of every human being. After 40 years of Earth Day celebrations it’s as important as ever (if not more important) to remember what Earth Day is all about. And how it’s something we can all do to leave a clean, healthy, thriving planet for the generations to follow.