Fifty years ago, environmental activism on college campuses changed important environmental laws herein the United States, and later around the world. Today our Earth needs us more than ever. We face two emergencies today, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the destruction of Earth’s climate. We were unprepared for the novel coronavirus pandemic, but we have time to prepare and make changes for our climate. Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary is a great place to start.
Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962, this powerful book started the modern environmentalist movement by helping people think about our environment in new ways. In 1969 the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire due to the massive amount of pollutants from industry. The huge Santa Barbara oil spill also occurred in 1969, spilling 80-100,000 barrels of crude oil in the water and all over beaches in southern California. These terrible and very visual devastating events sparked US Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin to call for teach-ins about the environment on college campuses across the United States.
The 1970’s were a time of strong civil engagement, and college campuses were a hot bed of activity. Over 20 million Americans took to the streets in protest and participated in teach-ins on the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. This was before social media so you can imagine the passion driving this environmental movement.
The success of the first Earth Day was seen quickly as the Environmental Protection Agency was formed by December 1970. Over the next few years, the modern environmental movement was strengthened by passage of landmark environmental laws: The Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Many other countries around the world followed suit and adopted similar laws.
Photo from Vermont Youth Climate March - 2019
Today more than 195 countries and more than 1 billion people around the world participate in Earth Day events. The 50th anniversary is your chance to participate in multiple events taking place all over the world virtually. Or plan your own Earth Day event anytime in 2020. Earth Day is the perfect time for people to rise together to make a difference for our climate just as we did in 1970.
Click here to search and join virtual Earth Day events around the world and add your own events: https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2020/
Author: Rebecca Roy, Vermont State Parks