The Momentum of Earth Day
Although it wasn't the first such rally, the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, succeeded like never before in raising awareness about the earth, natural resources, and pollution. Politicians, citizens, and school kids became involved, organizing anti-litter campaigns and working to save endangered species.
That same day, a televised public service announcement aired, showing Chief Iron Eyes walking over a shoreline covered in trash and watching as drivers threw garbage from their car windows. A single tear ran down his cheek as the announcer said, “People start pollution. People can stop it.”
Although Earth Day may have helped galvanize political movements, these issues and concerns were not new. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was published in 1962. Carson's work is cited as one of the mainstream books that introduced the nation to the problems with pesticides.
A woman ahead of her time, Carson pointed out the importance of the food chain and the impact insect-controlling pesticides had on birds and fish. While critics saw her as a menace to organized agriculture, segments of the population understood — and respected — her need to protect the environment.
The original “tree-huggers” are thought to be the Bishno is in India, who live by a set of principles that instruct them not to kill trees or animals. In the 1700s, the Bishnois wrapped themselves around trees to protect them from being cut down. Although more than 300 of the Bishnois were killed, that protective act later became a successful way to spare trees, and it continues today.
To many, Earth Day and environmental protection were associated with war protestors, teens and young adults, and hippies looking for a cause. But today, increasing numbers of common folk are looking to the planet as a resource that needs to be sustained — a difficult task that cannot be undertaken only one day a year.
Taking on one act at a time, choosing sustainable options over more damaging ones, thinking about purchases and their impact on the environment, seeking to raise generations with respect for the planet — any of these actions will help make every day Earth Day.