The 411 on Earth Day

Navreen Biring, Writer

Since its first celebration in 1970, Earth Day has had numerous successes and is celebrated by more than one billion people today. The celebration of this holiday resulted in the passing of many new laws that have helped protect our environment, including the Clean Air Act of 1970. Currently, Earth Day promotes education about climate change in schools across the world. There is no doubt that climate change is progressing rapidly, so we must continue to take steps toward preserving our planet. Participating in Earth Day is one of the ways we can make a difference.   

Before the first Earth Day in 1970, most Americans did not know about the drastic effects air pollution or oil spills could have on the planet. Many factories existed in the 1950s to satisfy the consumer-driven needs of the American economy. However, these factories created air pollution in major cities, which was harmful to people’s health and the overall environment. In 1962, Rachel Carson published her novel, Silent Spring, which relayed the fatalistic effects of pesticides on our planet. Carson’s novel sold rapidly and introduced many Americans to the importance of preserving the environment. Another event that forced Americans to recognize the deteriorating state of the environment was when the Cuyahoga River caught on fire in 1969. The river was already flammable because of oil and other materials dumped into it by large corporations. These events, among others, influenced Senator Gaylord Nelson to create Earth Day: a holiday when Americans could learn about the environment. Senator Nelson wanted to spread awareness and educate the American public about environmentalism through protests. Twenty million Americans participated in the first Earth Day of 1970, making it a huge success!    

The success of Earth Day inspired a series of laws that promote environmentalism, including the Clean Air Act and Clean Water and Endangered Species Act. Since its creation in 1970, the Clean Air Act has significantly decreased the amount of air pollution from prominent air pollutants. With less smoke in cities, Americans live longer, healthier lives. The Clean Water and Endangered Species Act limited the number of chemicals put into U.S. waters. By managing the number of pollutants in large bodies of water, this law maintained clean drinking water for people. This law also prohibited the killing and trading of endangered species. In addition, Earth Day influenced the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an organization dedicated to creating the best, cleanest version of our planet. These laws and organizations have worked to facilitate the brightest future for us and future generations.    

Nowadays, Earth Day promotes events that encourage environmentalism and reminds us of the work we must do to help sustain our planet. There is no one way to participate in Earth Day. People can participate in many activities, such as: planting trees, using less electricity (shorter showers, turning off lights during the day, etc.), picking up trash, and more! Earth Day is also used to increase climate literacy around the world. According to EARTHDAY.ORG, the Earth Day organization helps teachers in 149 countries. Earth Day allows us to hope for a more promising future with cleaner water and better air quality. Although we know we have a lot of work to do for the future, we can look at the past and see we have made a lot of progress since the first Earth Day back in 1970.