April 22, 1970: The First Earth Day
Where were you then? Where are you now?
Every year, Earth Day reminds us that we must care for our planet – not just for ourselves, but so our children and grandchildren can inherit a clean and healthy place to live. While the first Earth Day was more than 50 years ago, we are still learning lessons from that critical time. Let’s go back and remember that first day and see how the world has changed since.
The first Earth Day
On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was celebrated. Over 20 million Americans participated. It was a momentous occasion because the country was running through unnecessary amounts of gas, and people were driving incredibly inefficient vehicles. During this time, when many baby boomers were either teens or young adults, there was little information about what was causing damage to the planet.
Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson initiated the idea of Earth Day. He had become concerned about the environment and the damage caused by unnecessary waste. Then, a massive oil spill occurred in Santa Barbara, California, in 1969, and Senator Nelson officially had enough.
The result was the first Earth Day gathering, and many baby boomers engaged in marches and rallies. Educational programs were launched, and many college students got into the act. That same year, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was established, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed, and the Clean Air Act was passed. Sustainability continues to occupy a place in our minds and our public discourse.
Why Earth Day is so important
The first Earth Day was incredibly popular. Young people got swept up in its popularity and spread the word about sustainability. The movement continued to gain momentum, and in 1990, the 20th anniversary, over 200 million people worldwide took part in the celebrations.
Earth Day was important for many reasons. Among them was the fact that it started to reverse the trend of continued harm to our planet. In addition to restoring the beauty of nature and our world in general, going green also helped people to live healthier lives. By breathing unpolluted air, we get better oxygen intake. Green living also exposes us to fewer harsh household chemicals and allows us to eat fewer foods with harmful pesticides. Plus, more lush trees and vibrant green forests are good for our mental health.
Perhaps the most important thing about Earth Day is that it made a major impression on boomers. As a result, reports Green Builder Media, this generation continues to be the most likely to act on climate change. Boomers continue to shop locally, consume less, and feel a personal responsibility to help with the climate crisis. They can pass these lessons on to the following generations.
How recycling and sustainability have changed
The founders of Earth Day may have had no idea how much the world would change because of their efforts.
Today, we have technologies that few people dreamed of back then, like climate-saving solar panels and LED light bulbs. Many people have changed how they eat to create as little waste as possible. Now, many families plan their meals to reduce waste and create compost piles to grow new healthy food. The gas-powered cars that were such an issue on the first Earth Day are starting to fade away in lieu of electric vehicles and zero-emission automobiles.
We‘re also discovering that we can recycle more items than we previously thought, including clothes and roll-on deodorant bottles. Even old hard drives can be properly disposed of by sending them to a shredding company to wipe them clean and properly recycle the drives.
There’s your history lesson about the first Earth Day. By continuing the lessons we began to learn 50 years ago, we can clean up the planet so it thrives for generations to come.
Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer from the lovely “city of trees” – Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and search for the truth. You can find more of her writing on her Contently.