Curious Nature: Earth Day reminds us that we’re all united by the planet Earth (column)
April 22 is a day when, for nearly 50 years, countries around the world celebrate, show support for and acknowledge the single most unifying entity for all of humanity: planet Earth. Aptly named Earth Day, this global holiday, recognized by 192 countries, celebrates a landmark occasion in the movement for environmental policy reform.
History of Earth Day
The idea for a singular day to focus on the environment came to Gaylord Nelson, then U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, who witnessed the aftermath of the enormous 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student and youth-based anti-war movement, Nelson reasoned that if he could take that passionate energy and combine it with a developing public consciousness about pollution, then it would force environmental policy reform onto the national political agenda.
With help from Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, and Dennis Hayes, a graduate student and anti-war activist from Harvard University, the announcement of a national day to celebrate and bring awareness to environmental concerns, called Earth Day, was broadcast across the United States to take place on April 22, 1970.
At 2,000 colleges and universities, roughly 10,000 elementary and middle schools and hundreds of communities across the United States, the very first Earth Day took place in the form of “environmental teach-ins.” From coast-to-coast, more than 20 million people poured into the streets, local parks, schools and auditoriums to peacefully protest and rally against pollution.
Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, industrial pollution, dumping of raw sewage, use of pesticides and the loss of wilderness and wildlife realized they shared a common value — protecting planet Earth. This event brought Americans outdoors and into the beautiful spring sunshine in solidarity and support of addressing growing environmental concerns.
What you can do
Over the years, Earth Day has grown into its current status as the largest secular observance in history. It is a day that honors the actions of environmental activists, both present and past, and continues to instill awareness for environmental concerns.
Much like the first Earth Day 48 years ago, this year’s Earth Day also comes at a time of immense challenge to the environmental community. Though we may live in a time of divided political inclinations, on this day we must all remember to appreciate and support the one unifying entity that connects us all: Earth.
So what can you do to show your appreciation for our planet this year? Here are some suggestions that you can do to celebrate Earth Day in small, but impactful ways:
1. Walk, ride your bike or carpool to get to where you need to go. Fewer cars on the roads mean a cleaner atmosphere for everyone.
2. Volunteer your time or donate to local environmentally friendly organizations. Not only are you helping out your community, but you’re also helping to support organizations that are making the world a greener place.
3. Spread the word. Raising awareness and simply talking about the environment with your friends and family members who may not think about it all too much is a fantastic way to celebrate Earth Day.
Today, the march toward environmental awareness and understanding our impact on the environment continues with increasing urgency. We invite you to be a part of Earth Day and do your part to show your love and support for the beautiful planet we all call home.
Marley Fay is naturalist and sustainability intern at Walking Mountains Science Center. Fay’s love for nature and the outdoors began in her younger years as a wild child in the rolling hills of Austin, Texas, coupled with an insatiable sense of curiosity.