By Lynn Blamires Content Writer for My Local Utah
Earth Day had its beginning on April 22, 1970. That day saw the birth of an environmental movement that after 52 years is having a dynamic impact in shaping our attitudes and actions about the world in which we live.
The Origins of Earth Day
Prior to the first Earth Day, mainstream America remained largely oblivious to environmental concerns and how a polluted environment threatens human health. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin was motivated by the effects of a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California.
This event made Senator Nelson aware of other ways the earth was being polluted. He wanted to change the focus of the energy of college student anti-war protests with a public consciousness about air and water pollution and the effect it had on public health.
I can remember my dad talking about conditions in Kaysville, Utah where he grew up. Coal was a common source used to warm homes in the early 1900s. He told me that it wasn’t long after a fresh snow that the coal dust from fireplaces in town dusted the snow turning it from white to shades of gray. Today the snow stays white.
I lived in Provo with my wife about the time of the first Earth Day. We liked to hang our clothes on a line outside when the weather was good. They smelled fresh, except if we left them overnight, dust from the Geneva Steel smelters appeared on the clothing. There was a noticeable difference when Geneva closed.
Recognizing the potential to inspire all Americans, a national staff of 85 people was recruited to promote events across the land. The effort soon broadened to include a wide range of organizations including faith groups.
Earth Day inspired 20 million Americans to stand up against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting individually against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, and the extinction of wildlife united on Earth Day around these shared common values.
By the end of 1970, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of other first of their kind environmental laws, including the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Clean Air Act. Two years later Congress passed the Clean Water Act. A year after that, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act and soon after the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Acts. These laws have protected millions of men, women, and children from disease and death and have protected hundreds of species from extinction.
Earth Day Goes Global
In 1990, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide.
Earth Day 2000 Was Focused on Clean Energy
With 5,000 environmental groups in a record 184 countries reaching out to hundreds of millions of people, Earth Day 2000 built both global and local conversations, leveraging the power of the Internet to organize. This Earth Day featured a drum chain that traveled from village to village in Africa.
Earth Day 2010
Earth Day had been established as a major movement for global action for the environment. EarthDay.org was created and has brought hundreds of millions of people into the environmental movement, creating opportunities for civic engagement and volunteerism in 193 countries.
Earth Day engages more than 1 billion people every year and has become a major stepping stone along the pathway of engagement around the protection of the planet.
Earth Day Today
Today, Earth Day is widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world as a day of action to change human behavior. The Earth Day theme for 2022 is “Invest in Our Planet.” Here are some things you can do to participate:
The Canopy Project
The Canopy Project improves our shared environment by planting trees across the globe. Since 2010, EarthDay.org has planted tens of millions of trees with The Canopy Project, working worldwide to strengthen communities. EarthDay.org works with global partners to reforest areas in dire need of rehabilitation.
You can participate in Earth Day by planting a tree or donating to The Canopy Project to help in reforesting.
The Great Global Cleanup
The Great Global Cleanup is a worldwide campaign to remove billions of pieces of trash from neighborhoods, beaches, rivers, lakes, trails, and parks — reducing waste and plastic pollution, improving habitats, and preventing harm to wildlife and humans. This program aims to continue clean-ups every day of the year for a brighter, greener, and cleaner planet.
Since learning more about this program, I have become aware of trash on the ATV trails I ride and the walks I take in my neighborhood. I have begun taking sacks and a grabber tool to pick up trash I find along these trails.
Artists for the Earth
Artists for the Earth is a global campaign to connect with arts organizations and artists everywhere to engage the public with the critical issues of the environment. Art has the power to reach people personally, establishing a deeper understanding and emotional connection with what is happening to our planet.
Fashion for the Earth
The fast fashion industry has completely revolutionized fashion, but not for the better. Behind every piece of clothing in the store, there is a destructive industry stripping the Earth of its limited resources and placing a devastating toll on the labor force working in garment factories.
Sustainable fashion refers to a clothing supply chain that is ecologically and socially responsible. It aims to reorient the industry and consumers away from the fast fashion model and toward sustainable practices in sourcing, production, distribution, marketing, and consumption. Learn what you can do by learning about the industry and materials that do not contribute to this problem.
It is important to learn about what Earth Day means to you and then act according to your understanding. Earth Day is a day to do something to make our world a better place.