This week, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Even after 50 years, Earth Day is more important than ever. Earth Day symbolizes a global desire to protect the planet and inspires thousands of actions – big and small – every year. Importantly, Earth Day serves as a reminder that collective action can make a difference.
50 Years of Earth Day
Following the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson joined forces with Denis Hayes, and other environmental activists to create a day dedicated to environmental stewardship. The first Earth Day included 20 million people across the country in peaceful demonstrations and actions for the environment. The event saw the creation of the recycling symbol; moreover, Earth Day sparked large-scale action to clean up pollution, protect wildlife, and, eventually, fight climate change.
The first Earth Day sent a signal to the U.S. government, demanding direct action to protect the planet. As a result of the demonstrations, the United States had the momentum and support needed to create the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Shortly thereafter, the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act were passed to empower the EPA with key protections for the environment.
With billions of participants celebrating every year by holding garbage clean ups, tree planting, and other volunteer efforts, Earth Day is one of the most significant days of environmental action.
And these efforts are more important than ever. We know that the health of the planet and the health of our communities are inter-connected.
In 2020, climate action is society’s preeminent environmental issue and is the theme that the Earth Day Network dedicated to the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.
“The enormous challenge — but also the vast opportunities — of action on climate change have distinguished the issue as the most pressing topic for the 50th anniversary. Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable.”The Earth Day Network on the theme for Earth Day 2020.
Indeed, the impacts of climate change– on vulnerable populations, on infrastructure and institutions, on disease vectors, on food availability & access, on public health, on the financial system — are wide-ranging and not dissimilar from what is happening now with the coronavirus pandemic. This is scary, but the good news is that we are showing how quickly we can mobilize to take action! And that too is one of the lessons from the first Earth Day 50 years ago today.Read more