The 1960s were tumultuous years with the Vietnam War escalating and young people protesting and standing up for a new way of thinking and living. It was no secret that country-wide folks were becoming more aware of pollution in the air, in the water, and on the earth. “Factories pumped pollutants into the air, lakes and rivers with few legal consequences. Big, gas-guzzling cars were considered a sign of prosperity.” A bestseller book came out in 1962 called Silent Spring by author Rachel Carson. She raised the issues of the dangerous effects of pesticides on the American countryside. Los Angeles and New York had horrible smog from auto emissions, oil spills and petroleum were being dumped into rivers, and industrial waste was dumped anywhere. People wondered about health problems as cancer was being diagnosed more frequently.
Gaylord Nelson, Senator from Wisconsin, announced the Earth Day concept at a conference in Seattle in the fall of 1969 and invited the entire nation to get involved. The first Earth Day was on April 22, 1970 and 20 million people participated in activities across the United States. Senator Nelson had an office staffed with college students, veterans of protest campaigns and civil rights movements of the 1960s. This first Earth Day ignited much enthusiasm and ultimately led to the establishment of the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
In February 1971 Earth Day was recognized by the United Nations on the vernal equinox, the first day of spring. Please do read the rich history of this day as today nearly 200 countries worldwide celebrate Earth Day on either April 22 or on the vernal equinox.
What are the recent changes to Earth Day?
Changes began to ramp up in April 2016 as the Paris Agreement agreed to combat climate change and created initiatives for a low-carbon future to keep global temperature rise this century under 2 degrees Celsius. In August 2018, Greta Thunberg began the School Strike for Climate - engaging young people who will live with the effects in their lifetime. In September 2019 a Global Climate Strike was the largest ever with more than 4 million people involved in an international movement. And thus began the Sunrise Movement and the Green New Deal.
For Earth Day 2021, President Joe Biden hosted a “Summit on Climate” addressing climate change with a $2 trillion infrastructure overhaul, which has not yet happened, and may not. The plan is to combat climate change and move the United States to green energy which would improve infrastructure and provide jobs.
Last month the National March Report 2022 came out with details and graphs of where we are right now. It isn’t pretty. We need to come together again as we did on Earth Day in 1970. We need a world-wide movement to make change happen now.
- Individually, we must first understand about Big Oil companies and how dependent our world is right now on fossil fuels. Watch the PBS Frontline series on Tuesday nights (3 episodes) to get a solid understanding of the state of our current world.
- In your homes, we must ELECTRIFY as much as you can possible! Get away from your use of gas, oil, and natural gas. Look into alternatives. Sell your gas stove - use electric. Look into heat pumps to replace your furnace. We all have excuses. Stop them and get going.
- As a religious community - Take a look at the 2030 Green Sanctuary Plan. Look at it. Think about it. Yes, we have lots of priorities as a small group of folks. We are already doing much. What more can we do?
- Divest your retirement funds from fossil fuel companies! This is a big one. Our voice is heard where we put our money and our vote. Invest in socially responsible funds (more on this in an upcoming article). Do your research on your mutual funds, savings programs. Divest!
- Vote!!! Vote for people who care about our environment, who do not take money from oil and gas companies. Vote for those who will welcome transitions away from fossil fuels, both locally (county commission, city commission), state representatives, and federal officials. Know who you are voting for and how they stand on climate change.
- Honor those you know locally who are stewards of our environment. Send them a thank you card. Tell them you care.