At first I set out to write a blog about small changes we could make to reduce our carbon foot print but then upon reflection I decided to write about the origin of Earth Day. The idea for Earth Day was born when Gaylord Nelson, a US Senator from Wisconsin at the time, had witnessed the detrimental effects of the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill. The Oil Spill happened on January 28th and took 10 days to get under control. It spewed an estimated 3-million gallons of crude oil into the pacific ocean, creating an oil slick 35 miles long along California’s coast and killing thousands of birds, fish and sea mammals.
Senator Nelson wanted to somehow bring the issues of air and water pollution into public consciousness and thought the student anti-war movement could help him. He felt a large outcry from the public would force the subject of the environment and protecting it onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson via media outlets announced a “national teach-in on the environment”, convinced Congressman McCloskey to serve as his co-chair and enlisted Denis Hayes from Harvard to be the national coordinator. They created and promoted 85 events across the US to all fall on April 22, 1970. April 22nd was chosen since it fell between spring breaks and final exams and felt this would bring a large presence of the younger generation to the events.
Since the first Earth Day in 1970, we have continued as a nation to celebrate Mother Earth on April 22nd. We have seen many changes over the years to help decrease our use of fossil fuels, improve our water ways and reduce our carbon footprint. But more needs to be done. My feeling is we may not be here to experience the full effects of our environmental impact but coming the generations; our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and so on will.
It’s been 46 years since the first Earth Day and even though we have made strides to increase awareness, reduce pollution and improve the environment we must do better! Every choice we make impacts our environment in some way. For example, single use plastic bags have a life expectancy of 15 minutes but will take hundreds of years to break down in a landfill. Be mindful of your choices, make small changes, teach your children to respect their environment. And most importantly, be an example (preferably a loud one) for how to live a more sustainable life and give back to our planet; our one and only home.