Today marks the 44th year of celebrating Earth Day, a day that aims to inspire awareness and action for caring for the Earth’s environment. Throughout the world, events are being held to demonstrate the ongoing commitment necessary for protecting the planet.
Are you looking for ways to participate? Here are several ideas to get you in the spirit of Earth Day:
• Go outside—no matter what the weather!—and enjoy.
• Submerge your hands in soil—plant a tree, wildflowers, or organic vegetables.
• Take a walk in the woods.
• Attend an event related to Earth Day.
• Conserve water.
• Pick up trash in your community.
• Think about ways to improve recycling efforts at home or work.
Education is really at the heart of Earth Day. Do you know the history behind Earth Day? Blossoming from a national interest and concern for environmental issues, in 1970 Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson and San Francisco activist John McConnell both organized grassroots demonstrations across the U.S. Senator Nelson’s activities took place on April 22, while McConnell’s events happened on the March Equinox (March 21, 1970). Millions of people participated in rallies and demonstrations on both days, and today Earth Day continues to be widely celebrated on both dates, though April 22 is when Earth Day annual events are most commonly held.
I remember when Earth Day returned! It was 1990—the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Day. Since I was born in the 1960s, I remember those hippie days of peace, love, and Mother Earth. The Earth Day notion did not get much attention after the first one. A recession and the winds of political change in the early 80s shifted public focus away from environmental issues. To see this big celebration return in 1990 was a real thrill. I had flashbacks of bell-bottom pants, floppy hats, long hair, and newspaper recycling. I remember recycling efforts during my middle school days— taking large bundles to drop off locations. Now there was even talk of weekly curbside pick-up. The seeds of environmental stewardship were growing again in me!
Ever since 1990, Earth Day has been building momentum. It’s a relief to see that we-the-people did not lose focus again. I appreciate the celebration, the reverence, and the calls to action.
Earth Day boasts many accomplishments over the course of its history. In the U.S., this movement has inspired the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. Through the years, Earth Day has significantly contributed to raising public awareness about a variety of environmental issues and policies involving air and water pollution, renewable energy, climate change, habitat destruction, and species losses.
In particular, 1990 and 2000 were pivotal Earth Days.
• 1990: Earth Day went “global” mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries, hoisting environmental awareness onto the world stage. This Earth Day gave a huge boost to recycling efforts and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
• 2000: Earth Day focused on global warming and a push for clean energy. With 5,000 environmental groups participating in a record 184 countries, the movement reached out to hundreds of millions of people through a combination of large scale and small grassroots events. Plus, the Internet was instrumental in organizing activists and activities.
Many cities and communities use Earth Day as an opportunity to increase the public’s awareness about environmental issues and launch campaigns promoting reducing, reusing, and recycling. Environmental efforts start with individuals and then lead to positive impacts on communities, which then contributes to long-term global sustainability. It’s a chain reaction!
Earth Day is an important reminder for us all to take care of our world on an ongoing basis. More than just once or twice a year, to really make a difference, we all need to do our part to use less resources, whether it’s water, energy, land, or plastic bottles. What we do each day affects the Earth. If millions of people make small, positive changes, then those small changes turn into big changes—and that makes a world of a difference!
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