Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day on Planet Earth

Ahhh yeahh, baby. 1970 was a year of hippies, flower power, rock concerts, protests and the sweet smell of patchouli (or was that weed?) in the air. It was also the year that we first celebrated "Earth Day." Protecting the environment was a relatively new concept, but raising public awareness and channelling all that student movement and protest energy into saving the planet seemed like a match made in heaven. 

On April 22, that very first year, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. In addition, thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Separate groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values and came together to create one grand vision.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, wealthy and poor, urban and rural folks, big business and labor leaders - which seems impossible to imagine given our current situation. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

Fast forward 20 years to 1990 - Earth Day took a bigger step and went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage and launching recycling efforts worldwide. With the millennium, Earth Day took on global warming. Earth Day 2000 combined the high-energy movement of 1970 with the international grassroots activism of 1990, added the internet and exploded to 5,000 different environmental groups in a record-breaking 184 countries, reaching hundreds of millions of people.

Now it's 2014. We're facing more climate change and weird weather than ever, bigger oil spills, all kinds of dirty energy issues from tar sands to coal to fracking. And there's still an Earth Day every day on April 22nd all in the hopes that we can save Planet Earth in spite of ourselves. Let's get together, make some more noise, and get this thing done already, people!  We can do this!!