Today is Earth Day … the 48th anniversary of Earth Day, to be exact. I am always surprised by people who say, “Yeah, so???” Or those who say “What the heck is Earth Day?” So, please bear with me while I explain very briefly.
History – In The Beginning
The concept for Earth Day was conceived in the mind of then-Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Senator Nelson recruited help from Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey and others, and on April 22,1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.
Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.
In 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest honor given to civilians in the United States—for his role as Earth Day founder.
From Then To Now
Through the years, Earth Day has focused largely on global warming and a push for clean energy. Earth Day 2000 used the power of the Internet to organize activists, but also featured a drum chain that traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, DC for a First Amendment Rally. Earth Day 2000 sent world leaders the loud and clear message that citizens around the world wanted quick and decisive action on global warming and clean energy.Earth Day 2010 saw new challenges: Climate change deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, reticent politicians, a disinterested public, and a divided environmental community all contributed to the narrative—cynicism versus activism. Still, some 250,000 people showed up at the National Mall for a Climate Rally, launched the world’s largest environmental service project—A Billion Acts of Green®–introduced a global tree planting initiative that has since grown into The Canopy Project, and engaged 22,000 partners in 192 countries in observing Earth Day.
And In 2018???
Under the current administration, with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) having been nearly decimated under the auspices of Scott Pruitt, the United States stands alone among all nations in eschewing the science of global climate change, and I am inclined to say that we have no right to even celebrate Earth Day. However, thankfully, the vast majority of people in this nation are more intelligent than our leaders and understand how critical our environment and our stewardship of the planet earth is.
The Plastics Crisis
This year’s Earth Day theme is a call to end plastic pollution. This year, a six-ton sperm whale washed up on the shores of southern Spain with 64 pounds of plastic in its stomach! The plastic crisis is a truly global one, and the numbers are staggering: A 2015 study found that between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic makes it into the ocean from land each year. By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by weight.
Plastic is not biodegradable and does not break down in nature. Some 32 percent of plastics end up in nature, where it often ends up in the bellies of fish, birds, and whales. 83 percent of drinking water samples all over the world were found to contain plastic fibers, even bottled water. Environmental activists are pushing to reduce or end the use of disposable plastics. Curbing plastic pollution is a key theme in this year’s Earth Day and there’s a high-profile campaign underway to ban plastic straws in particular. UK Prime Minister Theresa May called for a ban on plastic straws, swabs, and stirrers. Some researchers last year openly called for an international agreement to control plastic pollution.
We failed to save the Northern White Rhino species, as the last male of the species died last month. His name was Sudan …
There are now only two Northern White Rhinos left in the world, both females. Why did these animals become extinct? Two main causes: poaching and loss of habitat. Humans must bear the blame for both. In 1900, there were an estimated half-million of the rhinos. By 1970, that number was reduced to 70,000. And today the number is 2.
Earth’s polar regions are warming twice as fast as the average rate of the planet. NOAA scientists reported late last year that the Arctic losing ice at its fastest rate in at least 1,500 years. For the third year in a row. January saw the lowest extent of Arctic sea ice for the month on record. Researchers reported last year that a section of Greenland’s ice sheet suddenly started melting 80 percent faster. Another study found Greenland’s entire ice sheet is melting at its fastest rate in at least 400 years, and that the melt rate sped up drastically in 1990. If the entire Greenland ice sheet were to melt, it would raise global sea levels by more than 20 feet.
The climate change deniers can deny until they turn blue in the face, but facts speak louder than bullshit, and the facts tell us that we are losing this battle and will face our own extinction if we don’t take collective action soon.
This is a post about Earth Day, but more to the point it is a post about the need for Earth Day. It isn’t just about one day a year, about marches and articles such as this one, but it is about awareness. The entire purpose of Earth Day is to raise awareness, to stir people to take action. The U.S. government and Fox News will continue to deny the need to protect our environment, not because they are as stupid as they seem, but rather because they are as greedy as they seem. But there is much that each and every one of us can do without the help of our elected officials. Recycle, pick up trash when you see it on the streets or in your local parks, plant a tree, plant flowers to encourage pollination, turn the thermostat down, conserve water, reduce food waste, turn off lights, consolidate errands and trips in the car, walk more/drive less, take the bus … use some common sense and be a good steward of the planet. And meanwhile, keep petitioning your elected officials at local, state and federal levels … let them know that a healthy environment is more important to you than the finances of the fossil fuel industry. Please … my life and yours are at stake, but more importantly our children’s and grandchildren’s lives are at stake.