April 22 is Earth Day In The News

Earth Day Reflections and the Environment

Diane Bickett

It’s April 22 and it’s Earth Day, people! And a good day to reflect on how far we have come. These days the environmental news seems so bleak, we can feel angry and fearful and powerless. But, have faith, all that collective outrage can spark political action and change. It’s happened before.

The Birth of a Movement

If you want to feel inspired by how far we have come, just search for images of “America before the EPA.” Smokestacks and drain pipes spewing bad things into our air and water were everywhere. It was this environment that drew 20 million Americans to the streets to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies on April 22, 1970. That first Earth Day was organized by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin. According to the Earth Day Network, Senator Nelson had the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to fuel public consciousness about air and water pollution and to force environmental protection onto the national political agenda.

It worked. By the end of that year, President Richard Nixon founded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Congress passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. Not long after in 1976, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act was passed and then Superfund was created to clean up hazardous waste sites.

Earth Day’s Impact

Earth Day has lived on and is celebrated worldwide. It’s also celebrated here in Northeast Ohio. Locally, “EarthFest” was started by the Earth Day Coalition in 1990. The day-long celebration connected thousands of people from all walks of life with local environmental and governmental organizations to educate and inspire. EarthFest was an annual tradition for over 25 years, first at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and then at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds. Now, Earth Day events have sprung up in schools, businesses, churches and even hospitals. They are so numerous that the staff here at Cuyahoga Recycles has labeled April as Earth Month.

Making a Difference

There are two big takeaways from Earth Day:

  1. The first is that we can each make small lifestyle changes that will benefit the planet. We all know these by now: Reduce waste, ditch plastic, turn off the lights, drive less, buy less, recycle more and use the power of the purse (or wallet).
  2. The second is that while individual actions are important, the scale of change needed to solve our environmental problems lies with our lawmakers and our corporations. We as individuals cannot be the only ones to shoulder the burden. Our laws should reflect what all of us need and desire including clean air, water, food and energy. Our corporations should voluntarily contribute to the creation of a circular economy instead of the unsustainable “Take, Make, Waste” economy that currently exists.

The outrage that sparked environmental change in the 1970’s can also spark the change we need now, 49 years later, to address current problems of plastic pollution, climate change and the rollback of our environmental laws.

As the saying goes… Earth Day, Every Day.