Earth Day really represents the birth of the modern environmental movement.
The first Earth Day in 1970 was a moment with a huge number of Americans came together and raised their voices to call for real action to address our environmental challenges. Twenty million people turned out for the first Earth Day, which represented ten percent of the entire population of the U.S. at the time.
Photo of New York Times, Thursday, April 22, 1970.
What resulted was some of the landmark environmental legislation and protections that we take for granted today. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created and protections were put in place that safeguarded the air that we breathe and the water that we drink. Over time, Earth Day has been a touchstone for the environmental challenges of the day. It became a tool for the anti-nuclear movement, for those fighting to deal with ozone depletion, and later the climate movement.
Earth Day is arguably more important than ever in this uncertain time in which we find ourselves. Some people now take for granted that we have a relatively stable and healthy environment. They have forgotten that there are critical protections in place ensuring that it stays that way. Few remember the days when rivers were so polluted that they caught on fire and air pollution was so bad that a constant thick haze hung over some of our greatest cities.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we should take a cue from the participants in the first Earth Day and rally around what matters.
Today we should use Earth Day as a reminder that we have to work together to protect our common home. We have to remember how far we have come but also recognize how far we have to go. The climate crisis is looming and few have recognized just how dire the situation will be if we can no longer rely on the stable and predictable climate we’ve enjoyed for centuries. As we approach the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we should take a cue from the participants in the first Earth Day and rally around what matters. We should value our environment because we value ourselves and each other. This planet is our home. And it’s worth dedicating a day to protecting it.
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See more information at the www.earthdayinitiative.org.