2017-04-19 / Editorials

Earth Day For Everyone

In the 1950s and 1960s, civil rights, female empowerment, and antiwar issues were at the forefront of the country’s attention, and though Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” the classic bestseller that condemned the use of pesticides and other environmentally detrimental materials, was published in 1962, conservationism was still relatively low on the totem pole of American consciousness.

It wasn’t until 1969, when news of a massive, burning oil slick on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio reached veteran US Senator Gaylord Nelson in Wisconsin, that the environment began to concern Americans. Inspired by “teach-ins” (small groups gathering to raise consciousness) on the United States’ involvement in Vietnam, created by academic advocates of the growing national antiwar movement, Nelson began to formulate his idea. Years after announcing his concept, Nelson said, “Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response on the grassroots level. We neither had the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.” Imagine the likelihood of this occurring before we had social media to generate support.

Across the country, noted peace activist and environmentalist John McConnell was proposing a global holiday to celebrate the natural life of Earth at the National UNESCO Conference in San Francisco. Meant to advance the cause of peace and to remind citizens of the United States about their responsibility as environmental stewards, the holiday was adopted by a proclamation of the city of San Francisco, as well as the Earth Day flag that McConnell designed.

The work of those two men, along with countless others, threw the modern environmental movement into the national spotlight. Earth Day has since grown astronomically, with hundreds of millions of people celebrating worldwide.

Today, we celebrate Earth Day with park and river cleanups, by making sure to reduce energy and physical waste, and by donating to our favorite environmentally oriented charities. Make sure to take time this Earth Day to understand and continue the example left for us by our predecessors. If we all come together, we can take steps to preserving the natural legacy that is vital for us, and for future generations.

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