There was a time in History when a corporation-owned factory could cause black clouds of toxic smoke in the air and dump tonnes of toxic waste into a nearby water stream without facing any consequences. There was no legal body to regulate harm to the environment as no EPA, Clean Air Act, or Clean Water Act was in place. However, things changed drastically in 1970 when US Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day to make environmental issues a national agenda and eventually an international one.
Over 50 years down the line, Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22 and holds great significance not just among environmentalists but also among the general public. Before we go on to the theme of Earth Day 2023. Here is a brief history of the day which celebrated Mother Earth –
History of Earth Day
Gaylord Nelson was a junior senator from Wisconsin who had grave concerns surrounding the deteriorating environment in the United States. It was back in January 1969 when he witnessed the horrors of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Nelson was inspired by the student anti-war movement and wanted to bring the same enthusiasm to issues like water and air pollution. He announced the idea of a teach-in on college campuses to US media and chose Pete McCloskey as his co-chair. The campus teach-ins were organized by Denis Hayes, a 22-year-old activist on April 22.
Denis Hayes understood the movement’s potential to inspire all Americans leading him to build a national staff consisting of 85 people to promote events across the country. Soon, other faith groups and organizations latched on to the cause leading to ‘Earth Day’ as we know it today. The name change to Earth Day quickly sparked interest among the media eventually inspiring 20 million Americans to show their support.
Groups already in place fighting individually against oil spills, raw sewage, toxic dumps, and other environmental causes united on Earth Day as they shared common values. In a rare political alignment, both the Democratic and Republican parties pledged their support to Earth Day in 1970. The end of Earth Day in 1970 led to the formation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency which introduced a number of environment-centric acts. It was back in 1990 when Denis Hayes took Earth Day on a global scale. Senator Nelson also earned a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role in the formation of Earth Day.
This will be the first time an Earth Day theme is being continued into the next year. Last year’s ‘Invest in Our Planet’ theme will be acting as the continuation of the 2023 theme which is focused on engaging businesses, governments, institutions, and more than a billion people who participate in Earth Day activities to their part. Kathleen Rogers, the President of EARTHDAY.Org previously shared the vision for 2023 saying, “In 2023 we must come together again in partnership for the planet. Businesses, governments, and civil society are equally responsible for taking action against the climate crisis and lighting the spark to accelerate change towards a green, prosperous, and equitable future. We must join together in our fight for the green revolution and for the health of future generations. The time is now to Invest In Our Planet,”
An official press release by the Earth Day organization announcing 2023’s theme shared that investing in a green economy is the only path to a prosperous future. The statement adds furthermore that human influence is unequivocally to blame for the warming of the planet and some form of climate disruption will now be felt for centuries to come.
Not just governments, but businesses and humans all need to work together to bring about the revolutionary progress required to save the planet. Here’s how this is achievable –
1. Businesses including investors and financial markets need to drive value for their institutions and society through green innovations and practices. There have been multiple economic revolutions in the past powered by the private sector which now needs to emphasize the green revolution.
2. Governments need to incentivize their citizens, businesses and institutions to innovate sustainable practices. Additionally, educating the general public and advancing their interest in creating an equitable and sustainable global system is also required.
3. Citizens at an individual level need to push for sustainable solutions across the board as both voters and consumers. A push from the citizens can motivate governments to take proactive steps in conserving the environment while moving towards green development. The voice of the people holds great significance in making the changes the planet needs right now.
Earth Day Facts You Probably Didn’t Know
1. April 22 was chosen as the date for Earth Day because it fell between Spring Break and final exams leading to maximum student involvement
2. About 10 per cent of the US population took part in the first Earth Day demonstration
3. The passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts was inspired by the first Earth Day in 1970
4. Nearly 1 billion people across the globe take part in Earth Day activities
5. On Earth Day 2022, 28 million trees were planted in Afghanistan under the ‘Planet Trees Not Bombs’ campaign
6. Humans today use 50 per cent more natural resources than we did 30 years ago
7. An average American today produces 4.5 pounds of trash every day
8.Nearly 80 per cent of all plastic waste ever created by humans is still in the environment