On April 22, the earth was celebrated. Let’s take a minute to talk about how Earth Day came to be. In the late 1960’s, we were in the midst of a large scale environmental crisis. The tipping point occurred when Ohio’s Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969 due to high pollution levels on top of a number of other environmental disasters. These incidents spurred citizen action to make amends with the destruction of the earth that had previously occurred due to mass industrialization and pollution. All it took was a river bursting into flames to spark the beginning of the modern environmental movement, which was spearheaded when the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970.
What? Earth Day wasn’t created at the hand of a bunch of tie dye enthusiasts toting peace signs and tying themselves to trees? Actually, it was created by a guy named Gaylord Nelson, who was the senator of Wisconsin at the time of the first celebration. His goal was to escalate grassroots environmental movements into something bigger that would raise public environmental awareness. Millions of Americans joined in celebrating the day, many of which were college students.
This was significant for a number of reasons. First of all, it worked to raise awareness of the ecological crisis that was happening around the world. On top of that, it drove the topic of environmental issues into the political agenda for the first time, which still holds relevance in today’s political arena. Additionally, in the July following the event, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created to handle pollution issues in the United States, per an executive order from the White House. Supplementing the creation of the EPA, the modern environmental movement culminated in the creation of several environmental laws throughout the 1970’s that we still abide by today.
Do you like clean water? You can thank the Clean Water Act which was developed and put into law in 1972. What about fresh air? Give props to the Clean Air Act created in 1963. How about protecting animals? The 1973 Endangered Species Act plays a hand in that. These are just a few of the statutes that were born out of the modern environmental movement, which all began with the first celebration of Earth Day.
Today, Earth Day is celebrated internationally and rightly so. Colleges and companies across the world host Earth Day festivities, celebrating our earth and all of the resources that it provides us on a daily basis. Long story short, Earth Day matters. It’s worth celebrating on April 22 and every day.