To understand Earth Day, let’s go back to a time when protesters were standing up against the war in Vietnam, large gas-guzzling vehicles were sucking up leaded gasoline, and factories were spewing chemical-laden smoke and sludge into our air and water without concern. The attention of our country was on the war and politics, not on the harmful way we were treating our planet. The pollution was considered a side effect of prosperity.
In 1962, Rachael Carson published a book entitled “Silent Spring” focusing on the direction that current behavior was taking the planet. The book became a New York Times best seller and turned the tide in the country’s way of thinking.
Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, after witnessing the catastrophic oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969, looked to channel the energies of the college students who had been protesting the War in Vietnam to a new cause —our environment. He announced to the media that there would be a “national teach-in on the environment” and as a result, on April 22, 1970 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. Sen. Nelson’s speeches about Earth Day included the following quote, “Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all living creatures.”
This movement struck a common chord and was supported by Republicans, Democrats, rich, poor, labor leaders, and businessmen. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, toxic dumps, raw sewage, and loss of wilderness realized they had a common goal and began to work together.
In 1990, Earth Day went global with 200 million people in 141 countries spending the day celebrating the Earth and all that it provides, and to consider again what we as individuals and as collective groups can do to protect it. This effort brought environmental issues to the world’s stage.
Earth Day is a reminder to those of us who lived through those times, and those who have never known a day when the environment wasn’t at the forefront of thought, that our planet is dependent on human behavior for its survival.
We may think that this is an issue that only government or businesses can fix; however, individuals have a huge effect. Every time a cigarette filter is tossed on the ground, dangerous toxins are added to our soil and water. Trillions are tossed into the environment every year. Every plastic bottle tossed in the trash is a waste of crude oil, water, and natural gas that was used to make it. It is also a waste of material that is in high demand by companies in our own city. Every time someone burns trash, the air pollution problem is increased. According to the EPA, backyard burning produces harmful amounts of dioxins, a group of highly toxic chemicals that settle on crops and in waterways where they find their way into our food. These are just a few examples of individual actions that affect our environment.
On April 26th, KALB will host the 2014 Earth Day & Outdoor EXPO from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Big Spring Memorial Park in Athens. This is a free, family-friendly event with lots of activities, excellent speakers that kids and adults will love, free hot dogs, and lots of door prizes. Come out and learn more about our environment. Visit our website for more details or give KALB a call.
By: Lynne Hart